By Matthew Dalton
PARIS—A French investigative judge has brought preliminary charges of rape and sexual assault against Gérard Depardieu, an actor once regarded as the face of French cinema.
The judge filed the charges in December, alleging Mr. Depardieu raped an actress in the summer of 2018, a French judicial official said Wednesday. The actress, a woman in her 20s, hasn’t been identified.
Under the French legal system, the filing of preliminary charges indicates that the investigating judge believes there is enough evidence against Mr. Depardieu for authorities to deepen their investigation of the accusations. The judge could then decide to drop the charges or order him to stand trial.
“Mr. Depardieu is and remains presumed innocent,” said the actor’s lawyer Hervé Temime. “He strongly contests the accusations against him.”
The actress brought a complaint against Mr. Depardieu, 72-years-old, in August 2018, saying he sexually assaulted and raped her on two occasions earlier that month at his house in the upscale 6th arrondissement of Paris.
The Paris prosecutor’s office investigated the complaint against Mr. Depardieu and decided in June 2019 not to file charges, a judicial official said. The prosecutor concluded there wasn’t enough evidence against Mr. Depardieu, the official said.
Last year the actress filed a civil complaint against Mr. Depardieu. Under French law, that step allowed authorities to reopen the criminal case. The judicial official wouldn’t discuss why the judge decided to bring preliminary charges against Mr. Depardieu after the Paris prosecutors decided not to.
Mr. Depardieu is one of France’s most famous and internationally recognizable actors. He received an Oscar nomination for best actor for playing the title role in “ Cyrano de Bergerac ” and starred in Hollywood movies such as romantic comedy “Green Card,” for which he won a Golden Globe. He has also appeared in some box-office flops such as “102 Dalmatians.”
Over the last decade, Mr. Depardieu has become close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was granted Russian citizenship in 2013 by Mr. Putin after the actor said he would leave France because of the proposal by the Socialist government of former President François Hollande to impose an income-tax rate of 75% on high-wealth residents.
SOURCE : WALL STREET JOURNAL