IMF chief denies sex charge
NEW YORK — Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s reputation with women earned him the nickname “the great seducer”, and not even an affair with a subordinate could knock the International Monetary Fund leader off a political path pointed in the direction of the French presidency. All that changed with charges that he sexually assaulted a maid in his hotel room, a case that generated shock and revulsion, especially in his home country.
Unless the charges are quickly dropped, they could destroy his chances in a presidential race that is just starting to heat up. The IMF, which plays a key role in efforts to control the European debt crisis, named an acting leader and said it remains “fully functioning and operational” despite Saturday’s arrest.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told The Associated Press that his client will plead not guilty. He and another lawyer went in and out of the Harlem police precinct where Strauss-Kahn was being held early Sunday afternoon, and declined to answer reporters’ questions until the arraignment, which was expected later Sunday.
“He denies all the charges against him,” Brafman said. “And that’s all I can really say right now.”
Brafman is one of the city’s most high-profile defense attorneys. His clients have included mobsters and such celebrities as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and ex-New York Giants star Plaxico Burress.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was arrested less than four hours after the alleged assault, plucked from first class on a Paris-bound Air France flight that was just about to leave the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The white-haired, well-dressed, thrice-married father of four was alone when he checked into the luxury Sofitel hotel, not far from Manhattan’s Times Square, on Friday afternoon, police said. It wasn’t clear why he was in New York. The IMF is based in Washington, and he had been due in Germany on Sunday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The 32-year-old maid told authorities that when she entered his spacious, US$3 000-a-night suite early Saturday afternoon, she thought it was unoccupied. Instead, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her, New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne said.
The woman told police she fought him off, but then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again, escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said.
Strauss-Kahn was gone by the time detectives arrived moments later. He left his cellphone behind. “It looked like he got out of there in a hurry,” Browne said.
The NYPD discovered he was at JFK and contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Port Authority officers arrested him.
The maid was taken by police to a hospital and was treated for minor injuries. John Sheehan, a spokesman for the hotel, said its staff was cooperating in the investigation.
Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Authorities were looking for any forensic evidence and DNA.
A member of France’s Socialist party, Strauss-Kahn was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political fortunes have been flagging. (AP)