A French senator is under investigation over allegations he drugged an MP with the intention to sexually abuse her, his lawyer and the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Conservative senator Joel Guerriau, 66, is under investigation for administering a Sandrine Josso, 48, with ‘a substance liable to alter her discernment or control over her actions, in order to commit rape of sexual aggression, as well as for possession and use of susbtances classified as drugs,’ his lawyer Remi-Pierre Drai said on Friday.
The senator, representing the Loire-Atlantique region in western France, is suspected of putting ecstasy in a glass of champagne he served to the alleged victim at his apartment on Tuesday, who left after she started feeling sick, according to French media reports.
In a statement, lawyer Remi-Pierre Drai said ‘it was a handling error’ that caused the lawmaker to fall ill. He did not elaborate.
In a statement, Guerriau denied the charges.
The alleged victim said she had seen Guerriau handling a small plastic bag with a white substance, leading her to believe her drink had been spiked.
It was not clear why Josso was in the senator’s flat at the time of the alleged incident.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Julia Minkowski, said: ‘Sandrine Josso is still in a state of shock’.
‘She had to deploy monumental physical and intellectual forces to overcome her terror and extricate herself from this ambush at the last minute.
‘Added to this is a feeling of betrayal and total incomprehension. Joël Guerriau had been a friend for ten years, in whom she had complete confidence.’
Samples revealed the presence of ecstasy in Ms Josso’s body, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Thursday, as reported by Le Monde.
Searches were then carried out at the senator’s office and home, where investigators found ecstasy.
Guerriau maintained that he believed he had obtained another drug from a member of the senate, which he intended for his own consumption.
Guerriau was given preliminary charges of use and possession of drugs, and of secretly administering a discernment-altering substance to commit a rape or sexual assault.
He was later released under judicial supervision and barred from contact with the victim and witnesses while the investigation continues.
Preliminary charges under French law mean investigating magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing but allow more time before determining whether to send a case to trial.
‘Mr. Guerriau is now free and will be able to explain the facts,’ his lawyer said in a statement.
He ‘will fight to demonstrate that he never wanted to administer to his work colleague, and long-time friend, a substance to abuse her’ and ‘will demonstrate that it was a handling error which caused the dramatic inconvenience suffered by her fellow MP,’ Mr Drai said.
He added that his client ‘is an honest man, respected and respectable, who will restore his honor and that of his family’.
A spokesman for the senator’s conservative Horizons party told radio franceinfo on Saturday that Guerriau had been suspended with immediate effect.
Horizons said in a statement that it ‘will never tolerate the slightest complacency toward sexual and sexist violence’.
The members of the party were ‘deeply shocked by the facts at the origin of the accusations’, the party said, adding that the members of the Horizons office decided ‘unanimously’ to ‘immediately’ Guerriau.
They will themselves begin ‘a disciplinary procedure which could lead to to definitive exclusion’.
Horizons is allied in parliament with President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party.