PARIS (AP) — A former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron who triggered controversy by assaulting a protester at a 2018 May Day march was convicted Friday of illegal violence and other offenses and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.
A Paris court found Alexandre Benalla, 30, guilty of deliberate violence in the 2018 incident in the capital, at which Macron was not present. He was also convicted of illegally carrying a gun at a 2017 Macron campaigning event, and illegal use of diplomatic passports after he left the president’s service.
Benalla received a three-year prison sentence — two years of which were suspended — and will be allowed to spend the remaining 12 months at his mother’s home provided he wears an electronic tag.
Benalla’s actions, and the way Macron’s office responded to them, had caused the French leader’s first political crisis.
In withering comments, the court’s judge Isabelle Prevost-Desprez said Benalla had displayed “a sense of omnipotence and impunity … sowed doubt concerning the leadership of the Elysee and damaged the image of the presidency.”
At the heart of the controversy was Benalla’s murky role at the presidential Elysee Palace, where a police security contingent is charged with protecting the president. There was intense media coverage and a televised parliamentary inquiry put top Elysee officials, normally invisible to the public, at center stage.
Criticism centered on why the aide had used violence against the demonstrator in the May Day confrontation as police stood by watching. Benalla was allegedly at the demonstration as an observer.
“It was war,” Benalla told investigators, insisting that as an observer he had no intention of acting violently but intervened because it was his civic duty.
“You cast shame on the job of a police officer,” Prevost-Desprez said Friday, addressing Benalla in court.
At the end of 2018, the French press revealed that Benalla held two diplomatic passports, used for travel to African countries, after being dismissed from his job at the presidential palace.
Benalla did not speak during the sentencing, and he did not answer questions from reporters outside afterwards.