French tennis coach convicted of raping players

A former tennis coach in France was convicted and sentenced to

eight years in prison Friday for raping young students at his

academy, ending a seven-year legal case that began when a former

ranked player published a book describing years of abuse at his

hands.

The court in Lyon also barred 70-year-old Regis de Camaret from

working in tennis for life.

The case against Camaret began in 2005 with accusations from

former ranked player Isabelle Demongeot, who wrote a book

describing years of abuse. Several other women later came forward

with accusations that Camaret raped or sexually abused them when

they trained in the 1980s and 1990s. The statute of limitations had

run out for most of the accusers, but he was tried based on

complaints by two former players.

Camaret has denied all the accusations against him, insisting

that the atmosphere at his academy was ”conducive to flings,” the

Sipa news agency reported. Former No. 3-ranked player Nathalie

Tauziat testified on his behalf at the trial.

Tears flowed among some former trainees after the verdict came

down.

”Well, finally, tonight, he’s in prison,” said an emotional

Isabelle Demongeot, who was once ranked No. 2 within France, and

whose case was beyond the statute of limitations. ”We are all very

moved, and drained.”

Karine Pomares and Stephanie Carrouget – the two civil parties

to the state’s case and who testified – exchanged long hugs,

crying.

“We didn’t let it all out for nothing,” Carrouget said,

according to Sipa. The Associated Press doesn’t generally identify

accusers in sexual assault cases unless they agree to be named or

identify themselves publicly.

Defense lawyer Emmanuel Daoud said that the case amounted to ”a

trial by proxy” and argued that critics had wanted Camaret to pay

for crimes beyond the statute of limitations: ”I don’t call that

justice.”

However, Daoud never rejected the accusations filed against his

client, saying to Camaret – who cried repeatedly – during the

proceedings: ”Regis, you failed your moral obligations.”

The court showed clemency compared to the prosecutors’ request

for a 10- to 12-year prison sentence. The defense team wanted the

case dismissed, arguing that Camaret should be given the benefit of

the doubt. Investigating judges had initially tried to throw out

the case for a lack of evidence – before state prosecutors appealed

that decision.