Ex-International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday to charges that he allegedly sexually assaulted a hotel housekeeper at a posh New York City hotel last month.
The one-time contender for the French presidency who resigned from his post at the powerful lending body made his first court appearance since he was let out on $6 million cash bail and bond last month and set under house arrest that includes 24-hour monitors and armed guards.
Onlookers chanted "Shame on you!" as Strauss-Kahn left the Lower Manhattan courthouse on Monday.
A 32-year-old Sofitel housekeeper told cops that Strauss-Kahn chased her down a hallway in his suite on May 14, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex. A lawyer for the accuser said she will testify in court.
Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, said it will become clear there was "no element of forcible compulsion" in the case, again signaling that his strategy will be to argue that what the prosecutors say was a sexual attack was a consensual sexual encounter. He also added the defense team will not comment on the "substantive of this case."
"We intend to defend this case and defend it vigorously, but we are going to do so in the courtroom," Brafman said.
Kenneth Thompson, lawyer for the housekeeper from Guinea, said his client was "devastated and traumatized," but that she would testify and not back down: "She is going to come into this courthouse, get into that witness stand and tell the world what Dominique Strauss did to her," Thompson said.
The French politician was arraigned on charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching — the most serious crime carries a maximum term of up to 25 years in prison.
Outside the courthouse on Monday, about 200 members of Local 6 of the New York Hotel Workers union are expected to attend the rally in Lower Manhattan to show support for the accuser and bring to light the risks posed to hotel workers, who have been at the center of two recent high-profile assault cases.
"A lot of rich people come and they think they can do anything, that they can get anything they want," said a room attendant at a high-end hotel in midtown Manhattan who asked to be anonymous. "What we want is respect because we're not here as prostitutes or anything else."
Hotels in New York have increased the emphasis on worker safety in recent weeks, either by deciding to purchase panic buttons for room staff or reminding employees to report any alarming incidents involving guests, employees said. But the risks are still there.
"Most of us had some kind of experience," said a female employee, who's been in the business for five years. "It's not like somebody attack you, but they come to you. When you open the door, sometimes they're just in underwear. And of course, you don't want to see that. This is not the place and moment. We come here to work and make money for our families. Not to watch people naked or half-naked."
Several weeks after Strauss-Kahn was arrested, a housekeeper accused Egyptian businessman Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar, 74, of inappropriately touching her after she arrived at his hotel room at The Pierre to deliver the tissues he had requested from room service. Omar was arraigned on charges of sexual abuse and forcible touching last week and had bail set at $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond.
With Arun Venugopal