Strauss-Kahn pleads not guilty in sex assault

Former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),

Former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, right, appears before the judge at an arraignment trial for sexual assault with his lawyer, William Taylor, in Manhattan. (June 6, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty Monday to sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid, whose lawyer denounced defense claims that she consented to sex and vowed that she would confront the international diplomat at trial.

"She is going to come into this courthouse, get on the witness stand, and tell the world what Dominique Strauss-Kahn did to her," said Ken Thompson, attorney for the 32-year-old Guinean immigrant. " . . . What she wants is justice. She is a woman of dignity and respect."

The remarks followed an appearance by Strauss-Kahn that began just after 8 a.m. when the French politician entered Manhattan Supreme Court arm-in-arm with his wife to chants of "Shame on you!" from dozens of hotel maids in white-and-black uniforms who had been assembled by their union.

Inside, Strauss-Kahn's arraignment took just five minutes. Flanked by his attorneys, he rose after the charges were read and said in a loud voice, "Not guilty."

Strauss-Kahn, 62, is accused of pouncing on the maid when she came to clean his room May 14 at Manhattan's Sofitel hotel. The former head of the International Monetary Fund is charged with attempted rape and forcing her to perform a sex act, and has been confined to house arrest in a $50,000-a-month TriBeCa town house pending trial.

His team of defense lawyers, appearing after the plea outside the courthouse, called the plea a "powerful and eloquent" declaration of innocence and took a shot at the accuser's version of what had happened.

"There was no element of forcible compulsion in this case whatsoever," said Benjamin Brafman, "and when the evidence is heard, that will be clear."

But Thompson, a former federal prosecutor, called that statement "a lie" a few minutes later, telling reporters the consent claim was designed to steer discussion away from reports that other women have claimed Strauss-Kahn made improper advances in the past.

"Any contention that this attack was consensual is preposterous," Thompson said.

The accuser's legal representation is a sensitive subject because it could be used at trial to suggest that she trumped up her accusation to win money in a civil suit. Thompson deflected questions about a lawsuit, but said she could not be bought off.

"All of the money in the world will not prevent the truth from coming out," he said. "She is standing up for her dignity and standing up for all the women around the world who are afraid to stand up against their abusers."

Thompson also said his client, whose name is undisclosed, has not returned to work since the incident. "She is traumatized."

Defense lawyers Monday filed a request for discovery of the prosecution's evidence in the case. While most of the requests were standard, a few touched on key elements of the case, including one for DNA tests. Strauss-Kahn's DNA was reportedly found on the maid's clothing.

The defense lawyers also asked for information on any lawsuits the accuser might have filed, any discussions of concessions in immigration proceedings the government might have offered to the victim or hotel employees to whom she reported the attack, and any prior conduct of Strauss-Kahn that prosecutors hope to use at trial.

Strauss-Kahn's next court appearance is scheduled for July 18.

With Maria Alvarez

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