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France’s Benzema Drops Appeal over Sex Tape Conviction

PARIS (AP) — France and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has dropped his appeal against a conviction for complicity in blackmail in a sex-tape case that rocked French soccer, his lawyer said Saturday.

The Versailles court gave Benzema a one-year suspended jail sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros ($80,000) in last year’s trial, convicting him of involvement in an attempt to blackmail France teammate Mathieu Valbuena in 2015. Benzema was also ordered to pay Valbuena 80,000 euros in damages.

The initial scandal put Benzema’s international career on hold for more than five years, though he has since returned to playing for France, and the conviction has not kept him off the field. He claimed the Champions League trophy with Real Madrid last week and scored France’s only goal in a 2-1 Nations League loss to Denmark on Friday night.

Benzema’s lawyer Hugues Vigier told The Associated Press that the player decided to abandon his appeal but continues to deny wrongdoing. The appeals trial had been scheduled to open June 30. The Versailles court said on Saturday that it was awaiting the formal notification from Benzema’s legal team.

Vigier decribed Benzema’s weariness after years of legal procedures and said the 34-year-old player “doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s enough.”

“Karim continues to contest the slightest blackmail,” Vigier said. “He is guilty under the law, that’s true. But judicial truth is different from reality.”

After receiving preliminary charges in November 2015, Benzema was dropped from France’s national team by coach Didier Deschamps. Benzema was called back to play for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and has played regularly since.

The 37-year-old Valbuena, who starred for Marseille early in his career, has not played for France since the scandal broke. He just completed his third season with Olympiacos in Greece.

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