Prosecuted for manslaughter and involuntary injury and for endangering the lives of others, Serge Bromberg, founder and manager of Lobster Films, a company specializing in the preservation, restoration and distribution of old films, appeared on Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 November, in front of the 11e correctional chamber of Créteil.
On the night of August 10 to 11, 2020, hundreds of cellulose nitrate film reels (highly flammable and prohibited from manufacture since 1952) which he stored without authorization under an eight-storey building in Vincennes (Val-de-Marne ), had caught fire, killing two people.
Four years in prison, including three suspended sentences, were requested by the prosecution, who demanded that the reason for the sentence be changed to aggravated manslaughter on the grounds that the defendant knew full well the risks incurred and would have maintained these practices for economic reasons, judged the prosecutor. Although he pleaded contrition throughout the hearings (” I’m wrong “, “I was negligent”, ” It is a mistake “), Serge Bromberg remained straight as an i in his gray shirt, with his back to the audience, defending his primary position: faced with this human drama, ” I have no words “but he did never was a question for me to keep these reels. It was a buffer stock while waiting for them to go to the CNC [Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée] who, for months, had not taken them from me”.
In the eyes of the civil parties, sobriety appears as coldness, silence as pride
To specific questions from President Philippe Combettes and his two assessors, responsible for judging guilt and the sentence, Serge Bromberg tried to answer:
– Have you looked for other sites?
– I never considered anything other than CNC as an alternative.
But, in the eyes of the civil parties, sobriety appears as coldness, silence as pride, the rare explanations as attempts to divert guilt onto others, and his professionalism as an aggravating circumstance. “He knew the risks”repeat the lawyers for the civil party.
Voice of the victims
In the room, the distress is palpable at the evocation of how a fifties, burnt in the third degree “on 30% of the body” specifies the president, jumped from the fifth floor, hitting the ladder of the firefighters, before crashing to the ground. The victim’s sister, prostrate, holds her husband’s hand, her leg shaking like a leaf. Likewise the reminder of the last moments of Rachel S., 69, whom the firefighters could not save and whose body was found completely charred, her daughter coming to testify at the bar, waving a duplicate of the keys as the only memory that he has left of his mother. The trial will have had the merit of giving voice to the victims. For some waiting to find accommodation, while the building in Vincennes is still under construction. Traumatized, all of them.
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