IMF chief denied bail in sexual assault case

May 17th, 2011 by Staff

NEW YORK — As the managing director of the International Monetary Fund was denied bail on sex assault charges in New York City, people in Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s native France continued to express surprise and doubt over the lurid allegations that could result in a 25-year prison sentence.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, a prominent French Socialist, was ordered Monday by a Manhattan judge to remain in jail until his next court hearing. He faces the likely end to his presidential aspirations in France.

He also faces an investigation into an alleged 2002 attack on a French writer and journalist three decades his junior. A lawyer for the woman said she would file an official complaint charging that she was forced to fight him off, now that “she knows she’ll be heard.”

Strauss-Kahn has been an important figure in helping Europe work its way through the sovereign debt crisis involving Greece, Portugal and Spain. He had been scheduled to attend a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels beginning Monday.

Instead, he was in a Manhattan courtroom in his first court appearance since his arrest Saturday for allegedly assaulting a maid in his Sofitel hotel suite near Times Square.

France reacts

The scandal, involving a longtime politician who has long been known as a brilliant economist and a serial womanizer, led to soul-searching by some in France about the nation’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude toward its leaders’ sex lives.

“Politicians and artists enjoy a particular tolerance on this subject,” wrote Nicolas Demorand, editor of Liberation. “Part of the shock comes also from the unusual scene, until now unthinkable here: police arresting a top level politician on a matter of morals.”

Others in France said they could imagine Strauss-Kahn having sex with a 32-year-old chambermaid in his $3,000-a-night suite, but could not believe he would have forced himself on her.

“Seduction, yes, but no way would he use constraint or violence,” said Jean-Marie Le Guen, a Socialist Party MP who has known him for 25 years. “A certain number of facts, and certain aspects of the story we are hearing from the press make this not credible,” he told France-Inter radio.

At the 27-minute court hearing, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, entered a not-guilty plea on four felony counts, including sexual abuse and attempted rape, and three misdemeanor accounts, including unlawful imprisonment. The defendant did not speak.

Brafman, in seeking bail, said Strauss-Kahn was not a flight risk, even though he had been arrested in the first-class section of a plane about to leave for France from John F. Kennedy International Airport. The lawyer said his client’s departure had been long scheduled and “there is no indication, nothing, nothing that he intends to flee.”

The prosecution convinced Judge Melissa C. Jackson otherwise. Assistant District Attorney John A. McConnell said Strauss-Kahn had “a substantial incentive to flee” and that the maid had provided “a very powerful and detailed account” that was corroborated by forensic evidence.

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