Humiliation overwhelms Strauss-Kahn

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Seated in court with young hoodlums and drug users, Dominique Strauss-Kahn shrank into his black rain coat until there was nowhere left to shrink.

One of the most powerful men in the world until this weekend, the International Monetary Fund chief and French politician shared a hard wooden bench in New York state arraignment court with tough, poor criminals from the underbelly of a city he'd known as a glamorous metropolis.

The 62-year-old sat ashen-faced, doing everything he could to avoid the gaze of a courtroom crammed with police officers and reporters from the international media.

Then pandemonium: a group of photographers and cameramen suddenly were admitted and they jostled with each other, directly opposite the jet-setting politician, their long lenses aimed at him like the rifles in a firing squad.

There was nowhere left for Strauss-Kahn to hide.

The man used to VIP treatment, privacy and steering the world economy found himself being escorted by a court officer to have his irises scanned, just like every other suspect in the judicial conveyor belt.

The camera peered deep into Strauss-Kahn's eyes, the same camera that had peered into the eyes all morning of tattooed, scowling young men in hooded sweatshirts.

If Strauss-Kahn expected his nightmare to end when he finally went with his high-priced lawyers before Judge Melissa Jackson, he was disappointed.

There, the crumpled looking figure stood listening to a prosecutor detail what he said was the horrific attempted rape of a chambermaid half Strauss-Kahn's age in a luxury Manhattan hotel suite.

"The defendant restrained a hotel employee inside his room, he sexually assaulted her and attempted to rape her," the prosecutor said.

Arguing for Strauss-Kahn to be denied bail and kept behind bars while he awaits trial, the prosecutor said he might use his "tremendous and indeed global" influence to escape justice by fleeing to France -- the country where until now he was seen as a credible candidate for the next president.

Because France does not extradite citizens to the United States, "we would have no legal mechanisms to guarantee his return."

Twisting the knife, the prosecutor even compared Strauss-Kahn to filmmaker Roman Polanksi, who escaped rape charges in California and is a revered celebrity in France.

"It's exactly the same thing," the prosecutor said.

A defense attorney pleaded for Strauss-Kahn to be let out on $1 million bail. His argument was that this was a "well-known, well-respected person" with no criminal record.

In other words, he wasn't like the assorted thugs and delinquents in arraignment court.

"There are people in this court every day who get bail, reasonable bail," the attorney said, urging the judge not to treat him differently "just because he is an important man."

It is true that many of those hauled into arraignment court get out moments later on bail. They saunter out, often celebrating.

But these are largely suspects in punch-ups, robberies, fare beaters and the like -- relatively minor capers.

The slightly built, but steely Judge Jackson did not hesitate, remanding the man in front of her into custody.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer said one thing that no one in the room could have denied:

"Life before this arrest is not going to be the same as life after this arrest."

© 2011 AFP

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