Macron’s former assistant convicted of assault and pretending to be a police officer

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PARIS – A former security assistant to French President Emmanuel Macron was found guilty on Friday of assaulting protesters and posing as a police officer at a union rally in 2018, in a case that caused the administration’s first major scandal e led to intense criticism of Macron’s style of governance.

Former aide, Alexandre Benalla, 30, has been sentenced by a Paris court to three years in prison, one of which is under house arrest with electronic monitoring, and the other two suspended, which means he won’t need them unless that he does not commit a new crime within a certain time frame and a court orders that the entire sentence be served.

Mr. Benalla was also fined 500 euros, or approximately $ 460, and banned from working as a civil servant for five years.

An attorney for Mr. Benalla told news channel BFMTV that he was appealing the conviction.

Mr. Benalla had been in charge of security during Macron’s presidential campaign in 2017 and became an assistant to his deputy chief of staff after the election. He was part of the French leader’s inner circle, accompanying him on official visits, bicycle trips, tennis matches and other outings.

But in July 2018, Mr. Benalla was identified from the newspaper Le Monde in a video showing him wearing a police helmet as he grabbed, dragged and beat a man during an undisciplined union protest in Paris on May 1 of that year.

The report and that of the presidency uncertain answer, caused a storm of criticism that fueled months of media coverage and parliamentary inquiries, seriously challenging Macron for the first time since his election. It was quickly revealed that the presidency had known about the beating for months, but had punished Mr. Benalla with little more than a pat on the hand.

In the wake of other controversies involving Mr. Macron, including allegations of dealing with influence against a close aide, a sprinkle on top a new expensive dinner service, and its audience scolding of a student – the case has provided his political opponents with the credentials to portray the French president as out of this world and his administration as opaque.

At the trial, held in September, Mr. Benalla acknowledged an error of judgment but denied the assault.

Mr. Benalla joined the security forces as an observer on the day of the demonstration and claimed to have tried to help officers arrest demonstrators who threw objects at the police. But the court ruled that he had illegally and violently interfered with police work and assaulted four protesters in total.

Mr. Benalla, who now works as a private consultant, was also found guilty of misusing diplomatic passports he had kept after his dismissal from the Presidency, falsifying documents to obtain another type of official pass, and illegal possession of a firearm in 2017.

Vincent Crase, 48, a friend of Benalla and a former reservist gendarme who worked for Macron’s party – and who faced allegations similar to Benalla’s for his actions in May 2018 – was convicted, as were two police officers who had sent to Mr. Benalla the video footage of the accident taken by road surveillance cameras.

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