Olympic equestrian champ cleared of violence in domestic dispute case

Former Olympic equestrian champion Kevin Staut was cleared by a French court on Thursday of assaulting his former partner, his lawyer told the Associated Press.

Staut and Norwegian horse rider Marie Valdar Longem had accused each other of violence following an argument in a Bordeaux hotel room in February last year, when Staut was competing at the indoor Jumping International de Bordeaux.

A court in the French city of Lisieux fined Longem 1,500 euros ($1,600) for her actions in the altercation. She will appeal the ruling.

Speaking to the AP in a phone interview, Staut's lawyer Fanny Colin welcomed the court decision: "His innocence is proven. She has been found guilty.”

The court ruling was not immediately available.

Staut was part of the French team that won the gold medal in the jumping team final at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Speaking to the AP, Longem's lawyer Antonin Levy said his client was determined to continue her legal action “to make sure that all the women who are victims of violence in sport can be heard.”

Levy said an appeal ruling was not expected before the Paris Olympics, where both riders hope to compete.

Unless the public prosecutor decides to appeal the decision to discharge Staut, he will not return to court, Colin said, because Longem can challenge only her own sentencing, not the decision to acquit Staut.

According to Levy, the dispute started after Longem took Staut’s mobile phone to check whether she could find messages proving he was having an affair.

Longem said she was headbutted and left with her nose bleeding. She claimed Staut left the room without checking on her condition, giving her a middle finger.

Staut's account of the events was totally different. He said he was sleeping when he was awoken by Longem, who leaned heavily on his left knee, and she injured her nose by banging it against his forehead. He accused Longem of pushing him against a wall with both legs.

Levy said Longem tried to report the violence at a local police station but was unable to do so because nobody spoke English. She had to wait until her return to Norway to launch legal action via mail when she found out Staut was accusing her, too.

Levy said the court ruled that Staut should be discharged in the case because the headbutt was not voluntary.

“Marie Valdar Longem is shocked by the incomprehensible decision of the Lisieux criminal court, which has decided to believe Kevin Staut’s version of the facts, despite numerous elements presented to the court that contradicted his account,” Longem’s defense team said in a statement.

The International Equestrian Federation said on Thursday it had paused its own investigation into the incident pending the outcome of the criminal case. A spokesperson said the federation will study the court ruling before making any further steps.


AP Olympic Games:

Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press