Strauss-Kahn legal drama ends with pimp­ing ac­quit­tal

The for­mer IMF chief said he didn’t know there were pros­ti­tutes at his sex par­ties.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Kim Will­sher Will­sher is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

LILLE, France — The ev­i­dence in the three-week trial of for­mer In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund chief Do­minique Strauss-Kahn in Fe­bru­ary on charges of ag­gra­vated pimp­ing was of­ten sala­cious at best, sor­did at worst.

The for­mer pres­i­den­tial hope­ful ad­mit­ted that he needed the “recre­ational ses­sions,” likened to the or­gies of an­tiq­uity, be­cause he was busy “sav­ing the world” from one of its worst fi­nan­cial melt­downs.

In the dock, how­ever, the man the French re­fer to as DSK ar­gued that his morals were not on trial.

On Fri­day, a court in the north­ern city of Lille agreed, clear­ing Strauss-Kahn and 12 other de­fen­dants of be­ing part of a vice ring. An­other per­son in the dock, a for­mer ho­tel em­ployee, was con­victed of pimp­ing.

The Carl­ton af­fair — as it was known, af­ter the ho­tel where the al­leged pros­ti­tu­tion net­work was based — was fi­nally put to rest.

A key ques­tion in the case against the 66-year-old Strauss-Kahn was whether he had known that the young women in­volved in what one wit­ness called “beast-like scenes” were be­ing paid.

He in­sisted that he had not, say­ing that he had thought they were swingers like him­self just hav­ing fun, some­thing the women them­selves de­nied. He had no idea, he swore, that they were pros­ti­tutes.

As one of his legal team, Henri Le­clerc, told French jour­nal­ists, “He could eas­ily not have known be­cause, as you can imag­ine, at th­ese kinds of par­ties you’re not al­ways dressed, and I chal­lenge you to dis­tin­guish a naked pros­ti­tute from any other naked woman.”

Even the public pros­e­cu­tor, Fred­eric Fevre, sug­gested that the charges against Strauss-Kahn might be dropped as he did not ap­pear to have pro­moted or prof­ited from pros­ti­tu­tion, a re­quire­ment if the charge of ag­gra­vated pimp­ing was to stand. Pros­ti­tu­tion it­self is not il­le­gal in France.

Dur­ing tes­ti­mony in Fe­bru­ary, Strauss-Kahn ad­mit­ted that he had taken part in group sex and re­ferred to women in coded mes­sages as “ma­te­rial,” but he de­nied be­ing part of a pros­ti­tu­tion net­work that or­ga­nized par­ties in Paris, Brussels and Wash­ing­ton from 2008 to 2011.

One wit­ness, a sex worker called Jade, said she was booked to have sex with the politi­cian at an orgy at a club in neigh­bor­ing Bel­gium in the fall of 2009. She de­scribed see­ing about 40 peo­ple “all on a mat­tress on the floor” and broke down in tears as she tes­ti­fied that Strauss-Kahn had sex with her against her will.

The ac­quit­tal is the last act in a four-year court drama for Strauss-Kahn that be­gan in 2011, when he was hauled off a plane in New York and ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing ho­tel maid Nafis­satou Diallo.

Strauss-Kahn de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion, and the charges were later dropped. Diallo brought a civil com­plaint for “a vi­o­lent and sadis­tic attack, hu­mil­i­at­ing and de­grad­ing be­hav­ior” that was set­tled out of court, with Strauss-Kahn pay­ing undis­closed dam­ages that were de­scribed as sub­stan­tial.

The scan­dal cost the French­man his job as head of the IMF, as well as his hope of be­com­ing pres­i­dent of his home­land. Shortly af­ter his re­turn to France, his wife, Anne Sin­clair, who had stood by her hus­band through­out his Amer­i­can court or­deal, an­nounced that they were split­ting.

In a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view in Septem­ber 2011, Strauss-Kahn ad­mit­ted hav­ing be­haved “in­ap­pro­pri­ately” with Diallo and con­ceded that he was guilty of a “moral fault.”

How­ever, Richard Malka, one of his lawyers, called the Carl­ton af­fair an at­tempt to turn Strauss-Kahn “from an in­no­cent to a guilty per­son ... at any price.”

“It didn’t work. The house of cards has col­lapsed to­day,” Malka said at a news con­fer­ence af­ter the ver­dict.

Fel­low at­tor­ney Le­clerc said the ver­dict showed that there was “no legal case to be an­swered.”

“The charg­ing of DSK was to­tally ide­o­log­i­cal and based on moral as op­posed to ju­di­cial cri­te­ria,” he said. “We have al­ways said there was not a sin­gle fact of any kind to sug­gest he could have been guilty of pimp­ing.”

French news me­dia re­flected on whether Strauss-Kahn, who de­scribes him­self as a re­tired col­lege pro­fes­sor, an in­ter­na­tional con­sul­tant and ad­vi­sor to the Rus­sian Bank for Re­gional Devel­op­ment and the Ser­bian gov­ern­ment, could re­turn to pol­i­tics.

L’Ex­press, a re­spected French news mag­a­zine, said a po­lit­i­cal res­ur­rec­tion was “highly un­likely.”

“His im­age has suf­fered badly from suc­ces­sive [legal] af­fairs and four years dur­ing which the dark­est de­tails of his pri­vate life have been crudely ex­posed,” L’Ex­press noted. “His heart is prob­a­bly not in it.”

Philippe Huguen AFP/Getty Images

STRAUSS-KAHN was among 13 cleared of vice ring charges. One other per­son was con­victed of pimp­ing.

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