Those who study the legal woes of ex-presidents have been closely watching the trial of pro-American former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He was found guilty on Monday on corruption charges. American analysts wonder, given the current investigations of former President Trump in New York and Georgia, if this could herald bad news for Trump in the general sense. Time will tell.
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) March 1, 2021
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FNC: “A Paris court on Monday found French former President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced him to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence. The 66-year-old politician, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted for having tried to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved. The court said Sarkozy will be entitled to request to be detained at home with an electronic bracelet. Sarkozy will face another trial later this month along with 13 other people on charges of illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign.”
Jean-François Bohnert, the head of the financial prosecutor’s office which handled the case against Mr. Sarkozy said the charges were “particularly serious, having been committed by a former president of the Republic who was once the guarantor of an independent judiciary.”
Sarkozy allegedly plotted with his lawyers and political associates to help rich friends avoid embarrassing investigations and unethically aid allies climb up the power ladder.
“He filled the void and appeared as a moral authority, and a possible option for 2022,” said French political analyst Jaques Perrineau. “His conviction, if confirmed, robs him of this stature…Symbolically, it is very important. It heightens the mistrust, the impression that they are all corrupt.”
Sarkozy and his associates were wiretapped during the investigation. Some of the surveillance included conversations with his lawyers. Thus, lawyer client confidentiality has been a major point of contention in the trial. “You have in front of you a man of whom more that 3,700 private conversations have been wiretapped… What did I do to deserve that?” Sarkozy said.
Sarkozy’s lawyer, Jacqueline Laffont, argued the whole case was based on “small talk” between an attorney and his client. “You don’t have the beginning of a piece of evidence, not the slightness witness account, the slightness declaration,” she told the court.
The conservative, by French standards, Sarkozy is still a major political player in France and is known to be close to center right current French President Emmanuel Macron. With the French left in a shambles after numerous election drubbings, there was talk of a Sarkozy comeback in the near future. But even though Sarkozy is likely never to see a day in jail, this conviction, even if it is overturned on appeal, could spell the end of a political renaissance for Sarkozy. Voters will only tolerate so much drama from an ex-president before they grow tired of the never-ending controversies.