March 5, 2024

A French senator has been preliminarily charged with drugging a female lawmaker with ecstasy in order to rape her, the public prosecutor’s office said Friday.

Joël Guerriau, 66, a member of the center-right Horizons party, was arrested Thursday, two days after fellow lawmaker Sandrine Josso, 48, allegedly had a glass of champagne with him at his Paris home and then complained of feeling unwell.

Josso said she recalled Guerriau grabbing a “small plastic bag containing something white, in a drawer in his kitchen,” her lawyer Julia Minkowski told AFP.

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French Senator Joel Guerriau speaking

French Senator Joel Guerriau attends a session of Questions to the Government at the Fremch Senate, on July 16, 2020 in Paris, France. Guerriau has been preliminarily charged with spiking a female lawmaker with ecstasy in order to rape her. (David Niviere/Abaca/Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images))

“She had to deploy monumental physical and intellectual forces to overcome her terror and extricate herself at the last minute from this ambush,” Minkowski said, adding that her client was “in a state of shock.”

Guerriau was preliminarily charged with drugging another lawmaker with the aim of carrying out a rape or sexual assault, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. Preliminary charges under French law mean investigating magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing but allow more time before determining whether to send a case to trial.

franch-lawmakerSandrine Josso speaking before parliament

French MP Sandrine Josso addresses the government in Paris on July 23, 2019. Josso has accused Joël Guerriau, 66, a member of the center-right Horizons party, of spiking her with drugs. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Tests revealed that Josso had ecstasy in her system, investigators said, prompting her to file a criminal complaint.

Police later searched Guerriau’s office and home where they found ecstasy, the broadcasting station RMC reported. 

Guerriau has been suspended from the Horizons party, according to the Associated Press. 

The senator’s lawyer, Remi-Pierre Drai, gave an initial statement stressing that “we are miles away from the obscene interpretation that one might infer from reading initial reports in the press.”

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“Guerriau is not a predator… he is an honest man, respected and respectable, who will restore his and his family’s honor,” the lawyer said. 

Guerriau was also indicted for possessing drugs and placed under judicial supervision, his lawyer added.

His lawyer said Guerriau didn’t intend to drug Josso to abuse her and has apologized to her. Drai said in a statement that ‘’it was a handling error’’ that caused the lawmaker to fall ill, although he did not elaborate.

The two lawmakers had not been in a romantic relationship and had been friends for about 10 years, according to reports. 

Josso serves in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament, and is a member of the Democratic, MoDem and Independents groups. The French Senate is the upper house.

French Senate

(Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP)

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Guerriau, who was originally a banker, has served in the French Senate since 2011 and is deputy head of its foreign and military affairs committee.

Josso has been in office since 2017.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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