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IMF chief denied bail in sexual assault case; France in shock

Dominique Strauss-Kahn will remain in custody in New York even as a second possible sexual assault case, from 2002 in France, looms. In France, some speculate the N.Y. case could be a set-up to torpedo the Socialist leader's political career. Others say they have faith in American justice.

May 17, 2011|By Nathaniel Popper and Kim Willsher, Los Angeles Times

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers in Paris said he had left the hotel in midtown Manhattan about midday Saturday, an hour before the attack is alleged to have taken place. They told journalists that he had lunch with his daughter, a student at Columbia University, before heading for JFK. En route, he realized he had left a cellphone at the hotel and called reception to ask employees to find it for him.

New York police were able to track Strauss-Kahn and arrest him thanks to the phone call he made to the hotel, according to this account.

The maid has said that when she entered Strauss-Kahn's room to clean it, he came out of the bathroom naked, pushed her onto a bed and assaulted her, New York police said. At Monday's hearing, prosecutor McConnell said that Strauss-Kahn attempted to rape her and when that failed, he forced her to perform oral sex.

McConnell also said that Strauss-Kahn had a history of improper sexual behavior, referring to "at least one" other incident that occurred abroad, leading observers to conclude it was the complaint by the French writer, Banon, goddaughter of one of Strauss-Kahn's former wives.

The maid later picked the IMF chief out of a lineup at a Harlem police precinct. Local news reports said the woman was a 32-year-old single mother from Ghana. DNA samples taken from the maid and Strauss-Kahn were brought to the Manhattan Special Victims Unit in Harlem for testing.

Some French commentators criticized American media coverage of the case, alleging that the presumption of innocence had been repeatedly breached by photos taken as he was led in handcuffs out of a New York police facility.

The pictures amounted to "unsupportable cruelty," said Manuel Valls, a leading French Socialist.

Another French politician, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, said Strauss-Kahn was the victim of a "horrifying international lynching" based on weak evidence.

Not all agreed with such assessments. "I have confidence in American justice," said the French ecology and transport minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. "It's so French to see conspiracies everywhere; it's something I believe that's in our culture."

Strauss-Kahn will be held alone, segregated from other inmates for his own protection, at the Riker's Island prison, on the East River. The prison is used primarily for short-term detainees and is a far cry from Strauss-Kahn's $4-million Paris apartment; the brick mansion he uses in Georgetown, near IMF headquarters in Washington; and the hotel suite on West 44th Street where the alleged attack occurred.


Times staff writer Popper reported from New York and special correspondent Willsher from Paris. Times staff writer Geraldine Baum in New York contributed to this report.

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