Le Figaro Nice
On January 8, the criminal court of Nice will judge Jean-Marc Schoepff, a 67-year-old priest, for acts of sexual assault on minors under 15 years, learned Thursday Le Figaro from the lawyers of both parties, confirming information from Nice Matin. Acts that would have been committed more than 25 years ago but denounced only in 2017. "This is a victory, in view of the duration of the investigation and a first validation of the investigation," observes the counsel of the civil party, Vincent Ehrenfeld.
Five years ago, a first complaint was filed by a man from Nice against the former chaplain of his college. An approach with a snowball effect since quickly followed by eight other complaints. All to denounce sexual touching imposed by the priest, most of them in the 1990s. Heard by the investigators, Jean-Marc Schoepff had been indicted for a time and even imprisoned at the end of 2018 before being released. In fact, the latter has never ceased to proclaim his innocence.
Suspended but not revoked, the parish priest, who officiated at the parish of the port of Nice, will answer in a few months the accusations made by two of the plaintiffs, for facts committed during a holiday camp in Auron (Alpes-Maritimes) in 1996 and during a trip to Rome, the following year. The other complaints were too old and were time-barred. This is regretted by the lawyer of the civil party, Vincent Ehrenfeld. "We went to the end of the appeals, in particular by pressing so that the traumatic amnesia experienced by some victims is recognized as prescriptive of the prescription," he explains.
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"He can't wait to finally be able to express himself publicly"
An argument not retained by the Court of Cassation. Failing this, Vincent Ehrenfeld intends to summon several alleged victims of the priest as witnesses at the hearing on 8 January. "I think everyone will understand the usefulness of this approach. These testimonies will be as many elements of context to apprehend the case as a whole, "says the lawyer. And to continue: "And then the public action does not prohibit that revelations are made during the hearing, nor that other victims for whom the facts are prescribed come to bring their stone to the building as a form of support".
On the defense side, the method surprises. "It's a bit out of the normal frame. There is a risk of a general amalgam with the summoning of prescribed witnesses, "comments Tina Colombani, who assists Jean-Marc Schoepff with Michel Cardix. Regarding her client's state of mind, the lawyer confirms that he has not changed: "He still firmly contests all the facts of which he is accused and he looks forward to finally being able to express himself publicly. He is a very combative person even if it must be recognized that this whole affair, which has dragged on for years, has greatly impacted him as well as his family and loved ones. "