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October 4, 2022

WikiLeaks: Teo Peter case endangered US-Romania relations

In Nov. 2007, US diplomats said that “the impending ‘final offer’ by the U.S. Army Foreign Claims Europe to the family of the late rock star Teo Peter, who was killed in a 2004 car accident involving Embassy Bucharest’s former Marine, seems certain to have a significant, negative effect on the US-Romanian relationship.” The case was also seen to have a potential impact on US-Romania cooperation in Iraq or the purchase of F-16 fighter planes. The secret diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks and published by The Guardian was sent to the US Department of State by the US Embassy in Bucharest on Nov. 16, 2007. Former Ambassador Nicholas Taubman warned Washington that the ridiculous 80,000 US dollars offer made to the victim’s family as compensation might hurt some of the aspects of the US-American partnership on a long term. Teo Peter was killed on December 3, 2004 in a car crash. Christopher Van Goethem, an US Marine serving the US Embassy in Bucharest, allegedly drunk, did not obey a traffic signal to stop, which resulted in the collision of his Ford Expedition with the taxi the rock star was traveling in. Van Goethem’s blood alcohol content was estimated at 0.09 per cent from a breathalyzer test, but he refused to give a blood sample for further testing and left for Germany before charges could be filed in Romania. Bucharest requested the American government to lift his immunity, which it was denied. In a court-martial, he was acquitted of manslaughter and adultery but was convicted of obstruction of justice and making false statements.

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