Strauss-Kahn legal drama ends with pimping acquittal
The former IMF chief said he didn’t know there were prostitutes at his sex parties.
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.”
STRAUSS-KAHN was among 13 cleared of vice ring charges. One other person was convicted of pimping.