PARIS — French rocker Bertrand Cantat was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison by a Lithuanian court for beating to death his girlfriend, French thesp Marie Trintignant, during an argument.
Trintignant, 41, died last August from a cerebral edema brought on by head injuries inflicted during a jealousy argument between the two. Cantat, 40, admitted to having violently struck Trintignant four times during the drug- and alcohol-fueled row in a hotel room in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. The actress was filming a movie about the life of Colette, helmed by her mother, Nadine Trintignant.
Cantat, who has been in a Lithuanian jail since last July, was convicted of voluntary homicide, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, despite last-minute efforts on the part of the defense to commute the sentence to “involuntary homicide by imprudence.”
The judge, however, said Monday in rendering the verdict that “the accused foresaw the consequences of his acts including death. He didn’t desire those consequences, but they occurred.”
The singer has 20 days to appeal the sentence, which the defense said is likely. After the appeals process is complete and assuming he still must do time, Cantat can ask to serve his term in France rather than Lithuania. It is up to Lithuanian authorities to decide, but in most situations between two friendly governments, the prisoner will be handed over to his birth country.
The death of Trintignant, who comes from one of Gaul’s most recognized film families and who played in more than 50 films, stunned the country and set off a maelstrom of media coverage, with talkshows and roundtable discussions on every aspect of the case, from domestic abuse to the legitimacy of the legal defense of murder as a crime of passion.
Trintignant’s funeral was attended by such notables as Catherine Deneuve, former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and singer-actress Jane Birkin.
Cantat, the lead singer of the famous French rock band Noir Desir, was no less shocking for his role in the thesp’s death due to his image as a pacifist and his public support of various humanitarian causes.
From the outset, lawyers for Cantat portrayed the death as a crime of passion, which is a legitimate defense in Lithuania and which carries a lighter sentence.
Move sparked a debate in France — which no longer recognizes passion as a defense — that could be heard from corner cafes to the halls of the country’s judicial palaces.
Trintignant was the mother of four children including two by helmer Samuel Benchetrit, one by the drummer with the rock band Telephone, and one with thesp Francois Cluzet.