June 18, 2009 / 5:29 PM / in 8 years

French woman given 8-1/2 years for banker's murder

GENEVA (Reuters) - The woman who killed banker Edouard Stern, a banking scion and one of France’s richest men, after sado-masochistic sex and an argument over $1 million was sentenced on Thursday to 8-1/2 years in prison for murder.

Cecile Brossard, 40, has served four years in preventive custody since confessing to shooting dead her long-time lover in a crime that rocked Geneva’s staid financial circles.

“The court sentences Cecile Brossard to eight years and six months in prison for murder,” Judge Alessandra Cambi said.

Brossard’s defense team said it was “virtually certain” it would not appeal the sentencing that followed a one-week trial that revealed intimate details of the couple’s tumultuous relationship. Under Swiss law, she could be granted conditional release in 17 months, at the end of 2010.

Stern, 50, was found dead on March 1, 2005, in his luxury Geneva flat littered with sex toys. Four bullets were lodged in his body which was dressed in a head-to-toe flesh-colored latex outfit from the previous night.

Brossard confessed to killing Stern with his own revolver following an argument over $1 million he put into her Swiss bank account, funds she had demanded as “proof of his love for her.”

The artist testified that she shot her masked lover between the eyes after he told her: “One million dollars is a lot of money to pay for a whore.” He was shot twice in the head and twice in the torso.

COURTROOM APOLOGIES

A jury of six women and six men concluded that Stern had sometimes been “humiliating, tormenting and even cruel” to Brossard, but said her deed was “particularly cowardly” given that Stern had not been armed and had little chance of survival.

It took into account her courtroom apologies to his ex-wife Beatrice and three adult children in setting her sentence, saying the chances of a repeat offence were “practically nil.”

“The jury clearly said that it was not a crime committed by a mercenary woman looking for money. The jury recognized her as a woman who loved Edouard Stern, and that is what counted most for her,” defense lawyer Pascal Maurer told reporters.

Brossard admitted to having cleaned up the crime scene and thrown the murder weapon -- which was later recovered -- into Lake Geneva before fleeing to Italy and then Australia.

The jury rejected the defense’s argument that she committed a crime of passion in a moment of extreme distress, noting that she had been deliberate in trying to cover her tracks.

However, it recognized a “slightly reduced responsibility” on the part of Brossard, whom a psychiatrist testified has a borderline personality and suffered sexual abuse as a child.

Geneva’s chief prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, had asked for an 11-year prison sentence. The maximum sentence was 20 years.

Stern family lawyer Marc Bonnant, who told the court earlier this week that Brossard had returned the $1 million which she had initially refused to give back to Stern, on Thursday praised the sentencing as “a just and even-handed decision.”

“The court was right to remind us that it (murder) is the supreme crime,” he said at the courthouse in Geneva’s Old Town.

Editing by Laura MacInnis

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