French rappers fined for airport brawl that held up flights

PARIS (Reuters) - Two French rappers who clashed in a gang fight at Paris’s Orly airport, delaying flights and damaging a departures lounge, were fined 50,000 euros ($57,000) each on Tuesday but escaped jail time.

Rapper Booba is seen in Orly Airport in Paris, France August 1, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media on October 9, 2018. RAYANE MAB/via REUTERS

Their trial shone a light on the lifestyle of rappers, whose swaggering lyrics are often part of a bad-boy image which heightens their notoriety and music sales, but sometimes ends up being played out for real.

Passengers took mobile phone videos as the rap stars - who go by their stage names Booba and Kaaris - and their minders swung fists and lashed out with kicks in the Aug. 1 punch-up.

The two defendants, whose notoriety for their music and lyrics has been amplified by hostile verbal exchanges on social networks, were not present in court for Tuesday’s sentencing.

In addition to the fines, a judge gave the two suspended prison terms, meaning they will not serve time behind bars.

The sentencing came days after a separate case in which another musician shot from obscurity to infamy with the release of a video called “Hang White People”, which has been pulled from Internet platforms ahead of a trial set for January.

In the United States, birthplace of “gangster rap” and hardcore hip-hop, brawls and even gun killings are not unheard of among some rap artists. But in France, outright public violence between rival artists is rare.

The two who clashed at Orly sang a notoriously ribald hit together before turning into sworn enemies who, until last August, had mostly waged a war of words on social networks.

The airport incident erupted when Booba, 41, and Kaaris, 38, bumped into each other while waiting to fly to Barcelona. A running battle ensued in which they and their crews traded blows, crashing through the cosmetics, perfume and chocolate shelves of a duty-free store.

Eleven people were arrested and sent to trial on charges of aggravated violence.

Estimates of damage at the airport lounge ran into the tens of thousands of euros, while hundreds of passengers had their flights delayed after the terminal was briefly shut down.

Reporting by Simon Carraud; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by John Irish and Mark Heinrich