NEW YORK (AP) — The former International Monetary Fund head charged with trying to rape a Manhattan hotel maid formally said he was innocent of the charges Monday in his first court appearance in the case in two weeks.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty in a strong voice at the brief proceeding, standing between his defense team as his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, watched.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus went through the formality of telling Strauss-Kahn he needed to appear in court and had a right to be present at his trial, to which the economist said “yes.”
The French diplomat appeared in court for the first time since he was released on $6 million in cash bail and bond last month. He has been under house arrest that includes 24-hour monitors and armed guards, first in a downtown Manhattan apartment and now in a deluxe, $50,000-a-month Tribeca town house.
By the end of the case, “it will be clear that there was no element of forcible compulsion in this case whatsoever,” Strauss-Kahn’s attorney, Ben Brafman, said outside court after the brief hearing. “Any suggestion to the contrary is simply not credible.”
Brafman’s similar comments at an earlier court hearing have led to speculation that the defense will argue the encounter was consensual. He repeated again Monday that he and co-counsel William Taylor would not be commenting on the specifics of the case.
“We will defend this case in the courtroom,” he said, urging there not be a rush to judgment.
But the maid’s attorney, Kenneth Thompson, said she would testify in court and condemned speculation that she either made up the attack or exaggerated the claims.
“The victim wants you to know that all of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s power, money and influence throughout the world will not keep the truth about what he did to her in that hotel room from coming out,” Thompson said.
The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex crime cases unless they agree to it.
Thompson said the 32-year-old woman has not worked since the encounter because she is traumatized. And she will not settle the case or back down.
“She is standing up for women around the world sexually assaulted who are too afraid to come forward,” he said.
The hearing, which lasted about five minutes, was an arraignment, a standard proceeding in U.S. courts where the defendant is formally advised of the charges and is given the chance to plead. The attorneys also briefly discussed the handing over of potential evidence in the case. Strauss-Kahn’s next court date was set for July 18.
Protesters gathered outside to jeer Strauss-Kahn, who resigned from his powerful post amid the scandal, and proclaimed his innocence in a letter to staff. About 50 hotel workers were bused in by their union gathered outside the courthouse, many wearing their work uniforms. They shouted “shame on you” as Strauss-Kahn arrived, and again as he left in a black sport-utility vehicle.
The accuser “is a hard-working woman who was just doing her job,” said Wendy Baranello, a hotel union organizer. “It’s outrageous.”
The case has been intensely followed around the world, spawning news reports even about food deliveries to the home where Strauss-Kahn is staying. His arrest rocked France, where he had been considered a potential contender in next year’s presidential elections, and shook up the IMF. The powerful lending organization has yet to name his replacement.
Strauss-Kahn was arraigned on charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The most serious charge carries a maximum term of five to 25 years in prison.
Strauss-Kahn had been staying at the Sofitel, near Times Square in Manhattan, in a $3,000-a-night suite. He was scheduled to check out the day of the encounter.
The maid, a West African widow and mother of a 15-year-old girl, told police Strauss-Kahn chased her down a hallway in his Sofitel hotel suite May 14, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex.
Prosecutors said last month that evidence against Strauss-Kahn was building by the day. Tests have found Strauss-Kahn’s DNA matched material on the woman’s uniform shirt, people familiar with the investigation told the AP.
But Brafman told a judge May 16 that the defense believed any forensic evidence “will not be consistent with a forcible encounter.”
And in a letter to prosecutors last month, Brafman and fellow Strauss-Kahn lawyer William W. Taylor said they had — but wouldn’t yet release — information that “would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in this case.”
The woman’s attorneys said outside court that an attempt to smear her name would not be tolerated.