French woman convicted of killing her stepfather turned husband, but freed

CHALON-SUR-SAONE, France (AP) – A French mother of four was sentenced to one year in prison on Friday for killing her husband after decades of sexual, physical and psychological abuse from his teens. The verdict allows her to walk freely, as she has already served a sentence of preventive detention.

The case had garnered wide attention and support for the defendant amid a nationwide calculation with long-standing taboos around domestic violence.

Valérie Bacot, 40, admitted to shooting Daniel Polette in 2016. Polette was her stepfather, who later married her and forced her into prostitution.

A jury in Chalon-sur-Saône, in central France, has found Bacot guilty of the murder. She was sentenced to one year in prison and three years suspended.

The prosecutor had previously asked that Bacot not be sent to jail, saying he did not see her as a danger to society.

The trial showed the degree of control and influence Polette – 25 years older than Bacot – had over her.

“Yes, I killed him but if I hadn’t done it my kids would have done it,” Bacot said.

Polette came into Bacot’s life in 1992 as his mother’s companion. A few months later, she said, the sexual abuse started. She was 12 when he started raping her, Bacot said.

Polette’s sisters contacted a social worker and he was arrested in 1995 and convicted of sexual assault, spending two years in prison.

Subsequently, Polette returned to the family home and began to abuse Bacot again.

“When he came back he said he would leave me alone. My mother had forgiven him. But it started again. After being raped, I got pregnant, ”Bacot said. She was 17 at the time.

Her mother kicked her out of the house and she began living with Polette, whom she described as having complete control over her life.

He did not allow her to work or use contraception. She had three more children.

“He would beat me, slap and punch me, he would choke me. He was beating and then things got better, ”she said, adding that he also threatened her with a handgun.

In 2002, he forced her into prostitution, still controlling all of his actions.

In March 2016, following a situation of violence linked to prostitution, she shot Polette with a gun. Her children helped her bury the body, an act for which they received suspended prison terms.

Bacot was arrested by police the following year and jailed, before being released under judicial supervision in 2018 pending trial.

The psychologist who examined her said protecting her children was key to Bacot’s reaction. In 2016, she feared that Polette would assault her 14-year-old daughter and force her into prostitution.

A petition in favor of Bacot has collected more than 710,000 signatures.

Family members have come to court to say that they do not regret Polette’s death. His brother and sisters described him as a “monster”.

“The person I thank the most in the world is Valérie, because she killed him. She did what I should have done a long time ago, ”said Polette’s sister, 59. She said he raped her when she was 12.

Dr Denis Prieur, psychiatrist, said that at the time of the domestic violence, Bacot no longer had free will. “She couldn’t turn to the law (for help) because her husband was still there.”

Now “she has become somebody” and is no longer “a thing”, he said.

Bacot’s case echoes that of another Frenchwoman, Jacqueline Sauvage, who was convicted of shooting and killing her allegedly violent husband. Sauvage obtained a presidential pardon in 2016, allowing him to be released from prison.

Sauvage was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting her husband three times in the back with a shotgun in 2012. During the trial, she said her husband had beaten her for 47 years. The couple’s adult daughters also said he abused them.

The Associated Press does not usually name victims of extremely serious abuse, but Bacot – like Sauvage – has told his story publicly.

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