Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption Monday by a Paris court after he offered to pull strings to help a magistrate land a prestigious job in return for a favor.
The 66-year-old was also sentenced to a one-year prison term, though under the French system he’s unlikely to serve it, even if he fails to overturn the verdict on appeal.
“Sarkozy used his status as former French president,” said Presiding Judge Christine Mée as she read out the court’s decision. She said the wrongdoing he committed was “particularly serious.”
The conviction of Sarkozy — who still enjoys some popularity in the nation — is another setback to a political career that stuttered after his failed 2012 re-election bid. The judgment puts the former president on the back-foot weeks before he’s due back in court on separate charges that he illegally exceeded campaign spending limits ahead of his electoral defeat.
He isn’t the first former French president to go on trial in modern times. But the late Jacques Chirac was too sick to attend court before he was found guilty in 2011 of misusing Paris city funds.
Aside from the one-year jail term, the judges also gave Sarkozy a two-year suspended sentence.
The other defendants — Sarkozy’s lawyer and the former magistrate — both received the same sentences as the former president.
Defendants aren’t normally incarcerated if the non-suspended portion of their sentence isn’t longer than two years. They typically have to wear electronic bracelets and obey a curfew instead. Additionally, appealing a first-instance sentence suspends its execution.
Monday’s judgment centers on tapped phone calls of Sarkozy dating back to 2014, after he’d left high office.
Sarkozy was heard telling his lawyer that he would put in a good word to help the now-retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert clinch a sought-after position in Monaco if he helped in a legal fight to stop investigators using the former president’s diaries.
In court, Sarkozy had dismissed the conversations at “chatter” that was misinterpreted by prosecutors.
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