Top French TV personality faces preliminary charge of rape: What to know

Top French TV personality faces preliminary charge of rape: What to know

PARIS — France’s most famous TV presenter has been handed a preliminary charge of rape by a person abusing his authority as authorities investigate complaints by about 20 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct over decades.

Patrick Poivre d’Arvor denies wrongdoing, and has sued 16 of his accusers. A revered personality who hosted France’s most popular news program for more than two decades, he insists the sexual encounters were consensual.

The prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said Wednesday that Poivre d’Arvor was given preliminary charges of rape by a person abusing his authority for alleged actions dating from 2009. He was also named as an ”assisted witness” in another alleged rape from 2004.

Both incidents involved author Florence Porcel, who filed legal complaints in 2021. The Associated Press generally does not identify those who say they have been victims of sexual wrongdoing, except when they publicly identify themselves.

What ‘preliminary’ rape charge means under French law

Under French law, preliminary charges mean magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing but allow time for further investigation before deciding whether to send a case to trial. The ”assisted witness” status also allows time for further investigation that could lead to eventual charges or to a case being dropped.

The Nanterre prosecutor’s office said it opened two preliminary investigations in 2021 into numerous accusations against Poivre d’Arvor, including Porcel’s. One investigation, involving complaints by about 20 women, was closed and the other is ongoing, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement to the AP.

Poivre d’Arvor’s lawyers said in a statement published online that he ”firmly contests the facts alleged by Madame Porcel, as he has since the first day, and has provided numerous elements of material evidence.”

Lawyers Jacqueline Laffont and Julie Benedetti noted that prosecutors recommended dropping the case, but the investigating judges unusually filed the charge anyway.

Poivre d’Arvor was the star presenter of French TV network TF1’s evening newscast between 1987 and 2008, making him one of the most famous people in France, where he is widely known as just “PPDA.” An author, he also used to anchor a prestigious TV literary program.

Soon after Porcel’s complaint, Poivre d’Arvor acknowledged in an interview with TV channel TMC “small kisses in the neck, sometimes small compliments or sometimes some charm or seduction” — acts he said younger generations no longer accepted.

Gerard Depardieu also under renewed sexual misconduct scrutiny

Dozens of women have spoken out in recent years to accuse Poivre d’Arvor of rape, sexual abuse or harassment from 1981 to 2018. Most accusations are now too old to prosecute.

Some of the women welcomed the announcement of the rape charge.

”Finally!” posted author Helene Devynck, who published a book last year titled ”Impunity” that includes interviews with some 60 women who accused Poivre d’Arvor of sexual wrongdoing. Devynck’s book denounced France’s historically lax attitude toward sexual abuse allegations and the limited impact in France of the global #MeToo movement.

One of France’s biggest film stars, Gerard Depardieu, also is under renewed scrutiny for his behavior toward women after a recent documentary showed him repeatedly making obscene remarks and gestures during a 2018 trip to North Korea.

Depardieu was handed preliminary charges of rape and sexual assault in 2020. The France-2 documentary says 16 women have accused him of harassing, groping or sexually assaulting them. Depardieu denies wrongdoing.

More: Gérard Depardieu wax figure removed from Paris museum following allegations of sexual assault

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