Gerard Depardieu Faces Prison Time, Fines After Missing Court Date

7:19 AM PST 01/08/2013 by Rhonda Richford
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The actor was supposed to appear in a Paris court on Tuesday after a Nov. 29 arrest for drunk driving.

Gerard Depardieu may need his new Russian passport sooner than he thinks, as he now faces up to two years in prison in his native France after the actor failed to appear at a scheduled court date this morning stemming from a Nov. 29 arrest for drunk driving.

After spending Monday night at an event in Switzerland, the actor skipped the hearing Tuesday morning in Paris, forcing attorney Eric de Caumont to request a second postponement, which was denied.

Such a hearing is a common procedure that requires the defendant to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and results in restrictions on the driving license. By failing to appear, Depardieu’s case is now moved to a criminal court where he faces fines of up to $5900 (€4500) and jail time of up to two years.

STORY: Gerard Depardieu Calls Russia a 'Great Democracy'

The night before the actor was just 375 miles, or about 37 minutes by plane, away in Zurich for soccer organization FIFA’s Ballon d’Or (Golden Ball) ceremony, which honored Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi as the player of the year.

During this morning’s hearing, Caumont said the actor was unable to appear because he is “abroad for professional reasons.”

Perhaps he was testing the waters for the job of culture minister for the Russian state of Mordovia, which offered him the vacant position while visiting the region on Sunday.

After receiving his newly-printed Russian passport from President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, who granted it by decree on Jan. 3, he flew to the snowy city of Saransk where officials there tried to tap him for the title. Saransk is one of the cities where matches will be held when Russia hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

At the time, he passed on the post, calling himself “the world’s culture minister.”

“I have a Russian passport but I am French and I will certainly have Belgian nationality,” he said in an interview with French sports channel L’Equipe 21 on Monday, though Belgian authorities have refuted this.

Arguably France’s most famous face abroad, Depardieu recently forfeited his citizenship after engaging in a public battle with the government here over high taxes. In December, he put his Paris home on the market and announced plans to move to Belgium before shopping for citizenship around Europe.

Putin granted his longtime friend citizenship in a highly unusual move on Jan. 3. He also denied the move was for tax reasons, and defended against Putin’s political opponents and other activists that laughed at Depardieu’s declaration that Russia “is a great democracy.”

“I have traveled to countries where I have seen real injustices,” he said. “Sometimes I am clumsy in my remarks, but I am only human. I can also be wrong, but never in my heart.”

Depardieu was also cited for fighting with a fellow motorist in a separate incident last summer. In 2011, he was removed from an Air France flight before takeoff for urinating in the aisle while intoxicated, an action he later apologized for.

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