IMF chief denied bail in sex case
Updated: 2011-05-17 06:57
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn sits next to his lawyer Benjamin Brafman in Manhattan Criminal Court during his arraignment in New York May 16, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
NEW YORK - Haggard and unshaven after a weekend in jail, the chief of the International Monetary Fund was denied release on bail Monday on charges of trying to rape a hotel maid as allegations of other, similar attacks by Dominique Strauss-Kahn began to spill out.
In New York, prosecutors said they are investigating reports of at least one other case. In France, a lawyer for a novelist said the writer is likely to file a criminal complaint accusing Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her nine years ago. And a French lawmaker accused him of attacking other maids in previous stays at the same luxury hotel.
Strauss-Kahn's weekend arrest rocked the financial world as the IMF grapples with the European debt crisis, and upended French presidential politics. Strauss-Kahn, a member of France's Socialist party, was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The judge ruled against him after prosecutors warned that the wealthy banker might flee to France and put himself beyond the reach of US law like the filmmaker Roman Polanski.
"This battle has just begun," defense attorney Benjamin Brafman told scores of reporters outside the courthouse, adding that Strauss-Kahn might appeal the bail denial.
Strauss-Kahn is accused of attacking a maid who had gone in to clean his penthouse suite Saturday afternoon at a luxury hotel near Times Square. He is charged with attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The most serious charge carries five to 25 years in prison.
Strauss-Kahn, who has headed the international lending agency since 2007, was in New York on personal business and was paying his own way, so he cannot claim diplomatic immunity, the IMF said. He could seek that protection only if he were conducting official business, spokesman William Murray said.
The French newspaper Le Monde, citing people close to Strauss-Kahn, said he had reserved the $3,000-a-night suite at the Sofitel hotel for one night for a quick trip to have lunch with his daughter, who is studying in New York.
The 32-year-old maid told authorities that she thought the suite was empty but that Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway, pulled her into a bedroom and dragged her into a bathroom, police said.
He seized her breasts, tried to pull down her pantyhose, grabbed at her crotch and forced her to perform oral sex on him, according to a court complaint. She ultimately broke free, escaped the room and told hotel staffers what had happened, authorities said. She was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.
"The victim provided a very powerful and detailed account of the violent sexual assault," Assistant District Attorney John "Ardie" McConnell said. He added that forensic evidence may support her account. Strauss-Kahn voluntarily submitted to a forensic examination Sunday night.
Brafman said defense lawyers believe the forensic evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter." He would not elaborate except to say that "there are significant issues that we have already found" that "make it quite likely that he will be exonerated of these charges."
Prosecutors asked the judge to hold Strauss-Kahn without bail, noting that he lives in France, is wealthy, has an international job and was arrested on a Paris-bound plane at Kennedy Airport. He had left the Sofitel hotel before police arrived, leaving his cell phone behind, and appeared hurried on surveillance recordings, authorities said.
Prosecutors said they couldn't force his return from France if he went there.
"He would be living openly and notoriously in France, just like Roman Polanski," said Chief Assistant District Attorney Daniel Alonso, referring to the film director long sought by California authorities for sentencing in a 1977 child sex case. Swiss police arrested him in 2009, but he was freed last year when Switzerland declined to extradite him to the United States.
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