Tue, May 17, 2011 - Page 1 News List

IMF chief to plead not guilty to sexual assault charges

Reuters and AFP, NEW YORK

IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared in court yesterday for the first time since he was accused of trying to rape a New York City hotel maid in a case that sent shockwaves through French politics and left the IMF in turmoil.

Haggard looking, Strauss-Kahn wore a black raincoat and a light-colored shirt.

Police officers took him to have his irises scanned, then back to a bench where he sat along with other accused men in the arraignment court. He was not handcuffed.

His lawyers said he would plead not guilty to charges of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment that could bring a humiliating end to his public career and political ambitions.

He briefly appeared in the court presided over by Judge Melissa Jackson, then left again through the door leading to holding cells.

It was not immediately clear why he left, but there was no sign of his lawyers in the courtroom, suggesting that his case was not yet ready.

During the few minutes he spent in court, Strauss-Kahn sat on a bench where crime suspects wait before appearing in front of the judge. Strauss-Kahn was in court to enter a plea and seek bail. His lawyers say he would plead not guilty and “vigorously” fight the charges that he tried to force himself on a chambermaid at the luxury Sofitel.

“Our client willingly consented to a scientific and forensic examination ...,” William Taylor, the IMF chief’s Washington-based lawyer, said earlier. “He’s tired but he’s fine.”

Any restriction the judge places on Strauss-Kahn’s freedom of movement after yesterday’s arraignment hearing may determine whether he is able to continue in his globe-trotting role as managing director of the IMF.

His arrest on Saturday plunged the Washington-based global lender into turmoil in the midst of the eurozone’s debt crisis. The IMF board postponed an informal meeting pending further information from New York.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Strauss-Kahn had been due to meet on Sunday, said that finding a successor for the Frenchman was “not a question for today,” but there were good grounds to have a European candidate ready.

More allegations involving Strauss-Kahn surfaced in Paris, where a lawyer said a woman writer was considering filing a legal complaint against the IMF chief over an alleged sexual incident dating back to 2002.

Meanwhile, a police spokesman said the 32-year-old chambermaid at the Times Square Sofitel had identified Strauss-Kahn on Sunday from a police lineup that included five other men.

Strauss-Kahn, who has retained prominent defence lawyer Benjamin Brafman to lead his legal team, submitted to the forensic examination with police looking for scratches or evidence of his alleged assault.

Police said the maid had described how the IMF boss, naked, sprang on her from the bathroom of his hotel suite, chased her down a hall, pulled her into a bedroom and assaulted her. She told police she broke free but that he dragged her into the bathroom where he forced himself on her again.

The woman, who has not been named, was treated in hospital for minor injuries. She has worked at the hotel for three years and the property’s manager said she has been a “completely satisfactory” employee in her work and her behavior.

Police say the IMF chief does not have diplomatic immunity from the charges, which if proven could carry a prison.

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