Three-month suspended prison sentence for YouTuber Acid

The Bruges criminal court has sentenced Belgian YouTuber Acid to a three-month suspended prison sentence and an 800 euro fine for harassment. The defendant must pay the civil party a provisional compensation of 20,000 euros. The court made its ruling on Thursday morning.

After a direct summons from a former member of student club Reuzegom, 24-year-old Nathan Vandergunst (Acid) had to answer for, among other things, slander and harassment. The Public Prosecution Service demanded a moral punishment.

Original video

Vandergunst published a video on 31 May 2023 following the trial concerning the death of Sanda Dia. The young student died during a deadly hazing ritual by Reuzegom, a now-disbanded Flemish fraternity at KU Leuven. In the video, Vandergunst mentioned several Reuzegommers by name and shared personal information about them. YouTube eventually took the video offline.

Feeling that the sentencing against the fraternity members was too light, Vandergunst used his online platform of half a million viewers to vent his outrage. "When the law is no longer a synonym for justice, citizens have the right to know who will be their future politicians, lawyers or dentists," he said and pledged to expose those involved with Dia's death.

The video also featured a former member who was not involved in the fatal hazing. The ex-Reuzegommer's parents were suddenly confronted with false reservations and many negative reviews in their restaurant in Antwerp. When the West Flemish public prosecutor's office decided not to start an investigation into the video in question, the former Reuzegommer and his parents supplied a direct summons. As a result, Vandergunst had to answer for charges, including harassment, privacy violations, electronic nuisance and slander, on 18 January. Lawyer Wim De Colvenaer claimed 1 euro in moral damages for the ex-Reuzegommer and no less than 200,000 euros in compensation for his parents.

The trial

The public prosecutor demanded a moral but clear punishment for Vandergunst. Prosecutor Lode Vandaele compared the YouTube video to a punishment from the Middle Ages. "The criminal law has indeed been violated," he said.

The defence asked for the criminal action to be declared inadmissible because no investigation had been conducted in the file. In addition, lawyer Walter Van Steenbrugge pointed out that only the court of assizes can judge a press offence. Separately, an acquittal was requested on the basis of freedom of expression.

A history of criminal charges

Vandergunst now faces heavier charges than members of the former fraternity group. Following the trial on Dia's death, the 18 students involved were sentenced to up to 300 hours of community service and a 400 euro fine each.

Reuzegom was a Flemish fraternity at KU Leuven, part of the Antwerp Guild of student societies. Aside from Dia's death, the group also faced criminal charges of animal abuse in 2013.

#FlandersNewsService |YouTuber Acid (Nathan Vandergunst) ©BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER

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