36 Quai des Orfèvres: A fabled address, the building — known simply as “36” — has made appearances in movies and crime fiction.
That’s where Emily Spanton told court a group of off-duty officers she’d met took her for a private tour on April 22, 2014, following a night of heavy drinking at a nearby Irish pub.
Eighty minutes later, around 4 a.m., Spanton stumbled barefoot down the stairs. She’d lost her tights and her glasses and carried her shoes. She was covered in bruises, injuries that would be documented.
And as Spanton repeatedly told cops at the front desk, she’d just been raped by two, perhaps three officers, the conversation stilted by both sides unable to understand the other’s language.
All this time later, after years of tortuous legal proceedings — charges filed, charges dropped, a humiliating re-enactment of the crime at another hearing, crucial evidence disappearing, deleted, destroyed, a massive undertaking to collect blood samples from more than 100 officers who worked in the building for the purpose of obtaining DNA, charges reimposed — the two accused have been found guilty by a judge and jury, after eight hours of deliberation, and sentenced to seven years in prison.
In the court proceedings, the officers — Antoine Quirin, 40, and Nicolas Redouane, 49 — weren’t referred to by their full names, their identities protected by a French law that shields law enforcement working in sensitive police jobs. Spanton, who grew up in Toronto as the daughter of a high-ranking police officer and now lives in Niagara, waived anonymity.
As the verdict was delivered Thursday, one of the defendants shook his head in disbelief while the other wept and collapsed into his lawyer’s arms. They were standing mere feet from Spanton, who also shed tears, according to media reports from inside the Palais de Justice courtroom, situated right next door to “36,” on the bank of the Seine.
In his final statement before sentencing, Redouane told the court: “I should never have brought Emily Spanton to the BRI offices. All my life I’ve had good relationships with women. I never, never, never assaulted, attacked or raped Emily Spanton.”
Quirin said it has been a “five year nightmare” for him and his family.
The trial and its previous iterations were replete with denials and jaw-dropping revelations about how the investigation had been originally mishandled and subsequently compromised, while the public and commentators debated sexual assault prosecutions in the post #MeToo era. At issue was the concept of consent, as both accused insisted that Spanton had willingly participated in events.
But Spanton’s testimony had been consistent throughout, even as the 39-year-old woman’s character and lifestyle and sexual habits had been scorched by the defence teams. This, of course, is typical of sexual assault trials everywhere, including Canada — belittling and bullying the complainant.
She admitted to getting drunk with the off-duty officers, thus was in no fit state to give consent. Arriving at the BRI’s fifth-floor offices, eager for a private tour, she was forced to drink whiskey, she said, forced to perform oral sex and then raped several times by two, possibly three, men.
Taking the stand on the opening day of the trial, two and a half weeks ago, Spanton testified that she was “excited to see the ‘36.’ They explained the police station had been the subject of films, and made it sound like something I would want to see and I thought that going to a police station would sober me up as there would be plenty of lights and people.”
Instead, the offices were empty and dark.
It was, she said, “the worst mistake of my life.”
Spanton testified she was made to drink more, then forced to her knees and raped as the officers became violent when she wouldn’t go along with their sexual intentions. “They smashed my face against the desk,” she would later state in an interview with French TV. “I was stunned. I was seeing stars. I couldn’t see anything for a while, I couldn’t see them either, they were behind me.”
At trial, Spanton said: “I just gave up, just wanted it to be over. I kept my eyes closed.”
Spanton testified: “Someone was forcing himself into my mouth. Someone penetrated me. Then someone else. When it finished, I gathered up my belongs, but I couldn’t open the door. I was pulled into another office and everything happened again.”
Then told: “Go home.”
Quirin initially denied any sexual contact with the victim, but changed his story after his DNA was found on Spanton’s underwear. As was the DNA of Redouane. DNA from a third person was never identified, despite the blood-testing conducted on scores of police employees.
During the assault, Redouane had sent a particularly incriminating text message to a colleague. “Hurry up, she’s a swinger.” That message was deleted from his phone but retrieved on the recipient’s mobile.
The judge — known as the trial president — said Thursday the court was “convinced by the victim’s steadfast statements” and by “scientific and technical evidence.”
Prosecutor Philippe Courroye, in his closing arguments, said Spanton had been “easy prey” for the officers. “By taking advantage of a young, drunk foreigner, by treating her as an object, they have gone over to the side of those they pursue. Not policemen but “usurpers, unworthy of their badges, acting in the same way as those they pursue.
“They have lied, failed, concealed.”
From the outset, the investigation was an inept mess. The crime scene was never cordoned off. Spanton was, that night — after making her complaint understood, demanding to speak with a female officer — tested for alcohol and drugs while the officers were allowed to go home without submitting to a breathalyzer test.
Vital evidence disappeared. Both accused wiping messages and videos from the night off their cellphones.
At one point, investigators travelled to Canada to interview Spanton’s friends and relatives, digging around in her personal life, but no such intense probe was undertaken with the accused.
It seemed an endless nightmare, with the appeals and the reversals, yet Spanton persevered, coping with the bureaucracy of a foreign country. While the defendants, after being originally suspended, were permitted to return to their jobs.
Before leaving the stand, Spanton was asked by the judge what she expected from the court.
“I just want to stand up and publicly confront these men. Then I want to move on, close this chapter.”
The disgraced officers had been facing a possible sentence of 20 years for gang rape. They were also ordered to pay $23,000 in damages to Spanton.
They have 10 days to file an appeal.
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno