Head of France’s cinema agency sentenced to three years for sexual assault of godson

Dominique Boutonnat, the head of France’s powerful National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image (CNC), was on Friday given a three-year prison sentence, including two years suspended, after being convicted of sexually assaulting his godson in 2020.

In a statement released immediately after the ruling, Boutonnat announced he would step down as head of the CNC, a government agency whose role includes overseeing measures to curb sexual violence in the industry.

He will be able to serve his one-year jail term at home wearing an electronic bracelet, said the Nanterre criminal court. Boutonnat, 54, was also banned from having any contact with the victim for three years.

In its verdict, the court ruled that the “plaintiff’s version was more credible” than that of Boutonnat who, according to the court, always exercised “a real influence” over his godson.

In the statement released by the CNC, Boutonnat “reaffirmed his innocence” and said he would appeal.

The young man accused Boutonnat of trying to masturbate him during a holiday in Greece in 2020 when he was 19. In court, the young man has described Boutonnat as “more than a godfather”.

Boutonnat denies any sexual assault has taken place. He said in court that it was his godson who had initiated the situation and kissed him on the mouth. “I feel bad about leaving an ambiguous situation, but to say there was a sexual assault is false,” he told the court.

The executive was placed under investigation in February 2021 but still reappointed by the government as head of the CNC in July 2022.

“This case is a perfect demonstration of what sexual assault is,” said Caroline Toby, the victim’s lawyer, adding that “the abuse of authority” had been recognised in court. On 14 June, the public prosecutor had requested a three-year suspended prison sentence for Boutonnat.

The trial came as French cinema reels from a renewed MeToo reckoning that has seen several big names, including acting legend Gérard Depardieu, accused of sexual abuse. Depardieu denies wrongdoing.

The Guardian