Smiles, screams end Strauss-Kahn saga

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Three and a half months ago Dominique Strauss-Kahn sat in court unshaven, haggard, an alleged sex offender. He walked out of the same courthouse a very different man Tuesday.

Screams of protestors who still want Strauss-Kahn on trial rose up to the 13th floor courtroom. But the smiles inside, as a judge dismissed all charges, spoke louder.

Although stern, Strauss-Kahn looked tanned and composed as he sat through the 15 minute hearing with Judge Michael Obus in New York state court -- more like the self-confident, globe-trotting VIP he used to be, than the would-be rapist the Manhattan district attorney alleged until abandoning the case Monday.

Outside, two dozen feminist protestors howled abuse and hordes of journalists jostled to get a better view of the courthouse entrance.

"DSK shame on you and the DA too!" the protestors' placards read.

But for all the circus-like atmosphere in the summery Manhattan streets, the real drama was in Obus' courtroom.

While Strauss-Kahn sat between his high-priced lawyers -- spearheads of a defense A team of attorneys, investigators and public relations experts -- his millionaire wife Anne Sinclair sat beaming behind.

She stood by her man after his arrest and reportedly provided the financial muscle allowing him to live in the most luxurious bail conditions possible, not only hiring a top legal team, but sheltering in a $50,000 a month Manhattan rental.

At the moment of triumph Tuesday, as prosecutors detailed how they could not believe the testimony of the hotel maid accusing Strauss-Kahn, Sinclair repeatedly smiled -- an eternity from her tense, tear-filled court appearance at the start of the scandal.

Strauss-Kahn let his lawyers do his talking for him.

But after he left court, he issued his first personal statement since being hauled off an Air France plane and paraded, in handcuffs, in front of the world's media.

"These past two and a half months have been a nightmare for me and my family. I want to thank all the friends in France and in the United States who have believed in my innocence," he said.

The clouds have not entirely departed from Strauss-Kahn's life. He is unlikely to return quickly to the seemingly charmed existence he enjoyed before this summer, when he was not only head of the International Monetary Fund but seemed a sure bet to take over the French presidency.

Throughout the hearing, a heavily built security guard in a dark jacket sat by Sinclair. The guard even walked around the courtroom scanning reporters' belongings.

But Strauss-Kahn's reputation may be the hardest to protect.

He still faces a determined campaign by the maid's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, who reacted to the judge's dismissal of the case by saying that prosecutors do "not believe in equality for all under the law."

There was no taking away from the fact, though, that this was Strauss-Kahn's day.

"It's over," his lead lawyer Benjamin Brafman told him outside court.

© 2011 AFP

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