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Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleads not guilty in sexual assault of hotel maid

Los Angeles Times

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French politician who is charged with attempting to rape a hotel maid, formally told a judge Monday in a Manhattan court that he was innocent.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund entered the courtroom accompanied by two guards and his wife, Anne Sinclair, an heiress and onetime French journalist. The last time Strauss-Kahn was in court, he was granted a $6-million bail-and-bond package after agreeing to remain under house arrest. He is living not far from the courthouse in a townhouse that he is reportedly renting for $50,000 a month while he faces charges. He is watched by armed guards and under electronic surveillance.

When asked by the judge Monday during a brief hearing how he pleaded, the 62-year-old defendant, wearing a dark suit and tie and standing between his attorneys, firmly replied, “Not guilty.”

Since Strauss-Kahn was escorted off a Paris-bound flight by police on May 14, his lawyers have denied the sexual-assault charges, hinting that in fact he’d had a consensual sexual encounter with the 32-year-old maid in the luxury suite of the Sofitel Hotel that afternoon.

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But the alleged victim has maintained, according to police, that she was cleaning Strauss-Kahn’s room at midday thinking it was empty when he emerged from the bathroom naked and assaulted her, attempting to pull off her stockings, locking her in the room and forcing her to perform an oral sex act. He is facing seven counts of sexual assault including two felony charges that carry a maxiumum term of five to 25 years in prison.The maid, a widow, had moved to America seven years ago with her young daughter from Guinea in West Africa and has been working at the hotel for three years.

In addition to a herd of journalists, many of them French, the brief hearing Monday drew several diplomats, including two from the French consulate in New York and two from the Guinean embassy in Washington, D.C. Also present was Kenneth P. Thompson, one of three lawyers whom the alleged victim has hired.

During the proceedings, the defendant’s lawyers and prosecutors agreed to meet again before the judge on July 18 to set a schedule to file motions in the case. Strauss-Kahn’s attorney William Taylor III asked for the date after filing papers to have the prosecutors hand over the evidence they had gathered so far in the case. “It seems appropriate under the circumstances,” Taylor said of the court date in six weeks.

“All of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s power, money and influence throughout the world will not change the truth of what he did to her in that hotel room,” Thompson told reporters after the hearing. “She is going to come into this courthouse, sit down on the witness stand and tell the world what he did to her.”

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While the hearing was underway, a few dozen housekeepers from New York hotels gathered outside the courthouse. They had been bused there by their union.

“We are here to support our co-worker,” said Doris Codie, a 46-year-old maid who has worked at the swanky Pierre Hotel in Midtown Manhattan for 15 years. Several days after the alleged attack by Strauss-Kahn, a 74-year-old Egyptian banker was accused of sexually assaulting a maid at the Pierre.

“I’ve never heard of so many problems in all my years,” said Codie, who comes from Ghana. She added that she couldn’t understand why people who pay “large amounts of money to stay in beautiful hotels” might do such a thing.


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