He appeared relaxed, looking almost indifferent to the horror of the events.
Judged by the Charente-Maritime Assize Court for sexual assault and rape on four victims, minors at the time of the facts, Joël Le Scouarnec took a long look at the assistance, this Monday morning, while his trial, the first judicial phase of an extraordinary pedophilia case.
Interrupted on the second day due to the general confinement decided last March, the hearing resumed from zero on Monday at the Saintes courthouse, in a room fitted out to meet health requirements.
Two additional jurors, in addition to the six incumbents (four women and two men) were also appointed to make up for a possible absence linked in particular to the Covid-19 epidemic.
During their draw, surgical mask on the face, bald head except for a crown of white hair, arms crossed on a small paunch, Joël Le Scouarnec followed each of the jurors with his piercing gaze, topped with thin-rimmed glasses.
"In my eyes, Joël Le Scouarnec is not a monster", confides his last friend
From his box, he had previously given his identity in a quiet voice, his address - "my home is the remand center" - and given his profession: "retired" ... and no longer "surgeon", as he had stated it in March.
It is indeed within the framework of his work, in particular in the recovery room in various hospitals in the west of France, that he allegedly assaulted and raped the vast majority of his victims - 312 recognized by the courts to this stage, in a second section still under investigation.
A private session requested for the "educational function" of the trial
In this first case are judged mainly acts committed in his entourage in the years 1990, in particular on two nieces, and on a neighbor then aged 6 years.
By denouncing the facts, in 2017, the girl had made it possible to bring to light without a doubt the most important case of pedophilia in France, fed by perverse and particularly detailed writings of the surgeon written for more than thirty years and found in search of his home, in Jonzac.
As in March, the total closed session was pronounced by the president of the Assize Court Isabelle Fachaux.
A measure "of law", she recalled, which followed the requests of several civil parties, minors at the time of the facts, who made their entry hooded to protect themselves from the gaze of journalists.
Me Delphine Driguez, lawyer for the nieces, and Me Vincent Doutreuwe, lawyer for an ex-patient, had asked for "strict privacy" for their clients, some of whom were not more than four years old at the time of the facts.
Most of the many child protection associations that formed civil parties in this emblematic case had agreed with them.
Lawyer for the parents of the little neighbor, Me Francesca Satta, for her part, pleaded for a closed session - allowing the press to attend at certain times debates outside the testimony of victims - "an imperative given the personality of the accused, of the importance of this file to which the public could have access through the media.
My clients want to break this omerta which has allowed these numerous abuses to continue, ”the criminal lawyer stressed.
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It had been followed in principle by Me Céline Astolfe, lawyer for the Foundation for Children, emphasizing the "educational function" of such a trial.
The lawyer particularly regretted that no hearing note was taken during the aborted trial in March ... With the press, "we would have had the trace of some words in my opinion crucial which were pronounced here", insisted the lawyer, in reference to the recognition of the facts by Joël Le Scouarnec of several facts, in particular on his nieces.
"It's not you the culprit, it's me", he had thus assumed to his sister Annie, the mother of the two victims, who regretted having believed him when, faced with the facts, he had promised to 'amend.
No trace either of the very strong testimony of one of his sons on March 13, in the evening.
Up to twenty years of imprisonment
Relatives who will be heard again during this first day, dedicated to the personality of Joël Le Scouarnec with the hearing of his brother, his sister, his sons in particular.
His wife Marie-France Lhermitte, suspected of having known everything since the first attacks and of having voluntarily killed herself, is expected at the bar in the afternoon.
At the first hearing, in March, she had been worn pale by sending a medical certificate, explaining that she could be a carrier of the coronavirus.
Le Scouarnec affair: "I put my daughter in the mouth of the wolf"
The investigators will follow Tuesday morning, before the hearing of the civil parties, then the pleadings of their lawyers. The requisitions of the Advocate General, the defense - Joël Le Scouarnec recognizes at this stage only sexual assault - then the verdict is expected Thursday, the 70th birthday of the accused. He faces twenty years of criminal imprisonment.