Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears… (A.J. SISCO, REUTERS )
Reporting from New York — Booing and chanting "shame on you," a group of uniform-clad housekeepers jeered Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Monday as he entered a New York courthouse to plead not guilty to charges that he sexually assaulted a hotel maid.
As the former head of the International Monetary Fund emerged from a black van accompanied by his wife, Anne Sinclair, and two beefy security guards, he encountered the maids, who gave him a thumbs-down sign.
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 under constant surveillance by armed guards and electronic monitoring in a Tribeca townhouse that he is reportedly renting for $50,000 a month while he faces charges.
When asked by the judge Monday how he pleaded to seven sexual assault charges, the 62-year-old defendant, wearing a dark suit and tie and standing between his attorneys, replied firmly, "Not guilty."
For the housekeepers, who had been bused to the courthouse by their union, it was a moment to show they are behind the accuser but also to make it clear they will never stand for bad behavior from any guests.
"We are here to support our co-worker," said Doris Codie, a 46-year-old maid who has worked for 15 years at Manhattan's swanky Pierre Hotel. Several days after the May 14 encounter between Strauss-Kahn and a maid at the Sofitel hotel in Midtown, a 74-year-old Egyptian banker was accused of sexually assaulting a maid at the Pierre.
Codie, who wore a black apron and uniform with a crisp white collar, said the maids were lucky to have their union's support so they could stand up to wealthy clients. She also said she couldn't understand why people who pay "large amounts of money to stay in beautiful hotels" might do such a thing.
Since Strauss-Kahn was escorted off a Paris-bound flight by police, 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. Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said again Monday that there was "no element of compulsion."
But the Sofitel maid 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 faces seven counts of sexual assault, including two felony charges that carry a maximum term of five to 25 years in prison. The maid, a widow, had moved to the United States seven years ago with her young daughter from Guinea, in West Africa, and has worked at the hotel for three years.
In addition to a herd of journalists, many of them French, the brief hearing Monday morning 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, a lawyer hired by the accuser.
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 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."