Prosecutor on a mission to prove ex-IMF chief guilty

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New York prosecutor Cyrus Vance is on a mission to prove Dominique Strauss-Kahn guilty in the coming months as the former IMF chief fights to clear his name after being charged with sex crimes.

The New York district attorney, whose late father of the same name was secretary of state under president Jimmy Carter, is seizing on a golden opportunity for an easy re-election if he wins this highly publicized case.

Regardless of the final ruling, Vance, 56, who was elected in 2009 to a four-year term, will become a star prosecutor.

America's legal history is strewn with high-profile, sensational cases, from OJ Simpson's murder trial to the impeachment proceedings against former president Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson's pedophilia case and that of Mark Chapman, convicted of murdering John Lennon.

Prosecutors who try these cases become celebrities, even when they lose, as with Marcia Clark after Simpson was found to be innocent, Kenneth Starr in Clinton's "Monicagate" or Tom Sneddon in the Jackson case.

A former litigator who graduated from Yale University and Georgetown University Law Center, Vance returned to his native city of New York in the 1980s to work under Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau, who he ultimately succeeded when Morgenthau left his post.

In the interim, Vance left the attorney's office to open a law office in Seattle, Washington. In 1995, he defended 29,000 Boeing employees in a class action lawsuit against their employee for discrimination against women.

His success in that case earned him a reputation as a defender of women.

A grand jury has indicted Strauss-Kahn on all seven sex crime charges arising from Saturday's alleged assault on a chambermaid at Manhattan's luxury Sofitel hotel. He was due to be released on bail later Friday to house arrest.

On Vance's website, "Cy" is said to have been profoundly affected by a 1986 domestic violence case he tried about a young woman who was tracked down and killed by her ex-fiance at her workplace.

"This case sparked Cy's passion for preventative crime measures, in particular in the field of domestic and intimate partner violence, the only category of crime that has increased in the past 15 years," the website said.

He returned to New York in 2004 with his wife Peggy McDonnell, a professional photographer with whom he has two children who are now students.

At the time, he was working on reforming outdated legal texts, such as a drug addiction law. When his old boss Morgenthau stepped down at the age of 90 after 34 years, Vance had a unique opportunity to become the next New York district attorney, which he admits had been his dream job.

Speaking outside the court on Thursday, he told journalists that Strauss-Kahn was being prosecuted for "extremely serious charges" under American law, while noting that the fallen French political heavyweight will "receive all of the protection available in our justice system to ensure a fair trial."

Strauss-Kahn has denied all the charges, and resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund to devote his time to fighting to clear his name. But if convicted, he could face more than 74 years prison.

Vance and Strauss-Kahn's legal team will next square off in court on June 6.

© 2011 AFP

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