Strauss-Kahn faces judge -- and hecklers

6th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a New York judge he was innocent Monday, but through the windows of the courtroom came the cry from his other judges -- a group of angry maids -- that he was guilty.

The chanting crowd punctured the decorum of the courtroom, stealing the show from the former IMF chief and man who until his arrest on attempted rape charges had been seen as a French president in waiting.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, looked rested and better turned out in a dark suit and tie than in his first two court appearances, when the fallen VIP wore his dress shirt open and sported stubble over his haggard face.

When Judge Michael Obus asked how he pleaded to seven counts of sex crimes in the alleged attempted rape of a Manhattan hotel maid, Strauss-Kahn stood and in a quiet voice replied: "Not guilty."

It was the first time he'd spoken in public since the alleged May 14 crime and it could be the last time he's heard from for a long spell -- at least until a trial that is likely months away.

His lawyer to the stars, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters afterwards that those two words, "not guilty," amounted to "a very eloquent, powerful statement."

But the shrill cries of the maids demonstrating outside New York State Supreme Court were a reminder of the bitter battle to come.

"Shame on you!" they yelled over and over in front of hordes of journalists gathered outside the courthouse, their voices floating up to the 13th floor where the grey-haired Strauss-Kahn and his multi-millionaire wife Anne Sinclair sat.

The maids believe that one of their own, a poor, 32-year-old immigrant from west Africa, was almost raped and was forced to perform oral sex on Strauss-Kahn in his luxury hotel suite May 14.

For them, the case is open and shut: a powerful man who believed he owned the maid's body.

"We are demonstrating that we are not just servants, that we are good people and that we do our work," one maid, Joselyn Agresta, said. "Unluckily it happened to her, but it could happen to any one of us."

The alleged victim's lawyer, who attended Strauss-Kahn's arraignment hearing, said his client would at some point have her own day in court.

Attorney Kenneth Thompson said the still-unidentified woman was "devastated" by the experience. "She is suffering and traumatized by what Dominique Strauss-Kahn did to her."

This is a battle being fought outside the court as much as inside.

So Brafman, who is one of America's top trial lawyers, addressed the same journalists, telling them that there was no proof his client forced the woman into anything.

"Once the evidence is reviewed it will be clear that there was no element of forcible compulsion whatsoever. Any evidence to the contrary is simply not credible," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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