French sports stars and politicians have expressed their anger at the acquittal of a coach accused of domestic violence against Olympic judo champion Margaux Pinot, as the public prosecutor launched an appeal.
Pinot, 27, a gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, suffered serious facial injuries, including a broken nose when she filed a complaint with police in the early hours of Sunday. She said her partner and trainer, Alain Schmitt, assaulted her in her apartment outside Paris, tackled her to the ground, verbally assaulted her, repeatedly hit her, smashed her head on the ground several times and tried to strangle him.
Pinot said she managed to escape the apartment with the help of neighbors and called the police. Officers arrested and questioned Schmitt that night.
The case was rushed to a court hearing on Tuesday where Schmitt, 38, denied the allegations. The public prosecutor requested a one-year suspended prison sentence for what they described as “very serious violence”. But the judge ruled there was “not enough evidence of guilt” for the prosecution to prosecute. “A court is never there to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying,” said the judge.
Schmitt told the court that he had denied the allegations “100%” and that it was a brawl between lovers, launched by Pinot.
Pinot posted a photo of his swollen and injured face on social media. She spoke of the “blood on the floor of my apartment” and said, “What was missing? My death at the end, maybe? It was probably judo that saved me and my thoughts are with other women who cannot say the same.
Schmitt, with bruises around his eye, gave a press conference in which he said he felt judged by social media. He said Pinot was lying and he denied all the allegations. He said they had an argument, that Pinot had hit him and pushed him against a door and in trying to escape they hit a wall and a radiator. He said she had dropped it on her. His lawyer said Pinot had “behavior problems”.
He said: “In my life, I have never hit anyone… It is not possible for me to have hit someone and they ran away and I caught up with them – it is not possible. And all this after I supposedly pushed his head into the ground? It’s a joke… She’s lying of course.
He added, “She jumped on me and grabbed me by the collar. I stepped back, she pushed me against a doorframe. I banged my head. I got up a little dizzy. She hit me and it escalated. We hit walls, a radiator, a door.
Pinot and her lawyer then gave their own press conference where, with bruises on her face, she recounted her side of the night’s events and described how she thought she was going to die. “He grabbed me by the hair, pulled me to the ground, straddled me and started tearing my hair out and banging my head on the ground. He wanted to strangle me, ”Pinot said.
She said she told herself she had to find a way out of the apartment “or else I’ll die”. She said about his press conference that he was lying and trying to make it look like a “hysterical woman”.
Pinot described a relationship of behavioral control and verbal abuse. Schmitt didn’t want their relationship to be known, she said, and he often verbally assaulted her, claiming her career was going nowhere and criticizing her personality. Pinot said the weekend’s attack started with Schmitt making disparaging comments. She said she lay down on her bed with her fingers in her ears so as not to hear him, then the beatings started. She said he had already destroyed things in his apartment.
Her lawyer said neighbors heard the calls for help from Pinot and took her to their apartment.
Sports Minister Roxana Mărăcineanu said she supported Pinot, “who for me is clearly the victim of what happened”. French judo stars Teddy Riner and Clarisse Agbégnénou also publicly supported Pinot. Riner said there should be more support for the victims.
Pinot also had the support of the French Judo Federation, which said it was shocked by his injuries.
The mayor of Paris and socialist presidential candidate, Anne Hidalgo, supported Pinot, as did another left-wing presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.