A handcuffed and drained Strauss-Kahn, whose hopes of becoming France’s next president appear to have been wrecked, was seen in public for the first time since his arrest when he was taken to the booking station at Manhattan Criminal Court on Sunday night.
His lawyers said he would plead not guilty to charges of a criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment and attempted rape, that could bring a humiliating end to his public career and presidential ambitions.
“Our client willingly consented to a scientific and forensic examination …,” said William Taylor, the IMF chief’s Washington-based lawyer. “He’s tired but he’s fine.”
Strauss-Kahn, the early favorite in France’s presidential race, had his hands cuffed behind his back and a strained look on his face on Sunday as detectives led him to a waiting police sedan in front of a battery of television cameras.
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.
The IMF managing director, who has retained Michael Jackson’s former defense lawyer to lead his defense team, submitted to the forensic examination with police looking for scratches or evidence of his alleged assault.
A charismatic figure, Strauss-Kahn led the IMF through the 2007-09 global financial meltdown, pressing for stimulus measures and interest rate cuts to avoid a depression, and has been central in galvanizing Europe to tackle its debt woes.
The euro hovered near a seven-week low against the dollar in Europe on Monday as news of his arrest added uncertainty to aid for Greece and indebted euro zone countries.
Strauss-Kahn wore a black overcoat, blue dress shirt and black dress slacks on Sunday, his hair neatly parted, as he was made to walk to a police car in front of the assembled media. He kept his eyes straight ahead, avoiding looking at the cameras.
Police would not say where and when he underwent a physical examination, which investigators requested after the maid said the IMF chief, 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.
Defense lawyers said Strauss-Kahn would plead not guilty when he appears at Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday.
Any restrictions that the judge places on his freedom of movement may determine whether he is able to continue his IMF role in the short term.
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.
Strauss-Kahn’s wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, jumped to her husband’s defense, saying she did not believe the accusations “for a single second,” and other supporters in France cautioned against a rush to judgment.
Police say Strauss-Kahn left his $3,000-a-day suite in such a hurry after the alleged assault that he left his mobile phone behind.
After he called the hotel from John F. Kennedy airport asking about his phone, police located him on the first-class section of an Air France flight bound for Paris. He was pulled from the flight minutes before takeoff, taken back into New York City and charged.
FROM SUITE TO CELL
On Saturday afternoon, Strauss-Kahn was in the luxury suite with a conference room, foyer, marble bathroom and a bedroom with a king-sized bed and feather and down duvet.
A few hours later, he was in a bare holding cell in New York’s tough Harlem neighborhood, his career apparently in tatters unless he is quickly proven innocent.
Police say the IMF chief does not have diplomatic immunity from the charges, which if proven could carry a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years. They have collected DNA evidence from the hotel suite, The New York Times reported.
The IMF said Strauss-Kahn had been in New York on private business. He has hired lawyer Benjamin Brafman, a seasoned defense attorney who has successfully represented several celebrities, to lead his defense team.
The IMF moved to fill a leadership vacuum by naming No. 2 official, John Lipsky, as acting managing director.
Still, the charges against Strauss-Kahn are a huge embarrassment for an institution that oversees the global economic system and has authorized hundreds of billions of dollars of loans to troubled countries as well as playing a major role in the euro-zone debt crisis.
The allegations threw France’s presidential race wide open. Strauss-Kahn had not yet declared his candidacy but was widely expected to run for the Socialist Party nomination. Early opinion polls gave him a big lead over conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, who is likely to seek a second term at the election next April.
“LIKE A THUNDERBOLT”
“The news we received from New York last night struck like a thunderbolt,” said Socialist leader Martine Aubry.
France’s government as well as Strauss-Kahn’s political allies and rivals called for caution and respect for the presumption of innocence, but his presidential hopes appeared to be dead unless the case against him quickly unravels.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her rival’s presidential hopes had been crushed, while Christine Boutin, president of the Christian Democrat Party, suggested Strauss-Kahn may have been set up.
“I think it’s very likely a trap was set for Dominique Strauss-Kahn and he fell into it,” she told France’s BFM television. “It’s a political bomb for domestic politics.”
French voters are famously tolerant of political leaders’ extramarital affairs, but the allegations against Strauss-Kahn are entirely different, and much more serious.
With its chief in the dock, the IMF now faces many questions of its own, because his character had been questioned before. In 2008, Strauss-Kahn apologized for “an error of judgment” after an affair with a female IMF economist who was his subordinate.
The Fund’s board warned him against improper conduct, but cleared him of harassment and abuse of power and kept him in his job. It will now face new scrutiny over whether that response was too weak, especially as there have been persistent rumors about Strauss-Kahn making sexual advances to women.
Strauss-Kahn took over the IMF in November 2007 and won praise for helping push leaders to inject billions of dollars into the world economy during the global financial crisis.
He introduced sweeping changes to ensure vulnerable countries swamped by the crisis had access to emergency loans, and others to give major emerging market countries such as China, India and Brazil greater voting powers in the IMF.
An IMF leadership crisis now will especially worry European nations given Strauss-Kahn’s pivotal role in brokering bailouts for Iceland, Hungary, Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
Witty, multilingual, a skilled public speaker and sharp back-room negotiator, Strauss-Kahn also weighed into thornier issues by urging China to let its currency rise in a dispute with the United States.Reuters