A French senator has been handed preliminary charges for drugging another lawmaker with the aim of rape or sexual assault, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office, and has been suspended from his party.
Joel Guerriau, a 66-year-old representing the Loire-Atlantique region in western France, was detained for 48 hours and given preliminary charges Friday, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
He is suspected of putting ecstasy in a glass of Champagne he served parliament member Sandrine Josso, who left after she started feeling sick, according to French media reports. The incident occurred Tuesday evening in the senator’s apartment.
His lawyer said Guerriau didn’t intend to drug Josso to abuse her and has apologized to her. In a statement, lawyer Remi-Pierre Drai said ‘’it was a handling error’’ that caused the lawmaker to fall ill. He did not elaborate.
‘’Joel Guerriau is not a predator,’’ the lawyer said. “He is an honest, respected and respectable man who will restore his honor and that of his family however long it takes.’’
Guerriau was given preliminary charges of use and possession of drugs, and of secretly administering a discernment-altering substance to commit a rape or sexual assault. He was released under judicial supervision and barred from contact with the victim and witnesses while the investigation continues.
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.
After the charges were announced, the center-right Horizons political group on Saturday announced his suspension, saying that it ‘’will never tolerate the slightest complacency toward sexual and sexist violence.’' Horizons is allied in parliament with President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party.
Josso, a member of the lower house of parliament representing the Loire-Atlantique region with the centrist Modem party, has not spoken publicly about the investigation.