Strauss-Kahn will be cleared of sex crimes: lawyer

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Fallen IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn will plead not guilty and be cleared of attempting to rape a hotel chambermaid, his main lawyer said Sunday.

The French politician remained holed up with an armed guard in a Broadway apartment while efforts were made to find him a more permanent home to prepare his defense.

A French minister said the country would be ready to support any request for Strauss-Kahn to serve a prison sentence in his home country. But the wealthy socialist's top lawyer insisted there would be no guilty plea.

Benjamin Brafman, who handled the child sex case against the late Michael Jackson, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz he was confident that Strauss-Kahn would go free.

"He'll plead not guilty and in the end he'll be acquitted," Brafman said during a family visit to Israel.

"Nothing is certain, but from what I've discerned in the investigation, he will be acquitted... He has impressed me very much. Despite the circumstances, he's doing well.

"He's not happy to have been accused of actions he didn't take," he added.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, faces seven charges over the alleged attempted rape of a worker at the Sofitel hotel in New York. The Muslim woman told police she was forced to carry out sex acts on the former French finance minister in his suite and that he tried to rip her clothes off.

Prosecutors told a bail hearing last week that they are building up a "strong" case and that the evidence so far backs the woman's claims. There has been no announcement however on whether police have found DNA evidence.

Strauss-Kahn paid $1 million in cash and deposited a $5 million insurance bond to secure bail. He must wear an electronic bracelet and live under constant video camera surveillance with an armed private guard -- and pay for those services.

Strauss-Kahn currently resides at the Empire Building at 71 Broadway, a stone's throw from Wall Street and the Ground Zero site of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Tour buses going by the building point out its now notorious temporary resident.

Strauss-Kahn is only allowed to leave that apartment for a medical emergency though he will be able to go to his lawyer, a doctor or a synagogue when a more permanent home is found.

He will have to appear in court again on June 6 to formally enter his plea. The full trial may still be months away, however.

Strauss-Kahn's third wife, Anne Sinclair, has substantial wealth. But the security conditions for his bail alone are costing more than $200,000 a month, according to prosecutors.

He has also hired a powerful team of private investigators to probe his 32-year-old accuser.

Defense lawyers have so far given little indication of their strategy against the maid's claims that a naked Strauss-Kahn chased her through the hotel room where she'd gone to clean, then forced her into oral sex.

However, there have been hints that the lawyers will say a consensual sexual encounter took place.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told French radio that if Strauss-Kahn was found guilty and asked to come to France, "the French government would support his request."

Gueant said the sex crime accusations have damaged France's image abroad. The right-wing minister said that the opposition socialists deserved credit for the solidarity they have shown Strauss-Kahn.

"But sometimes they have put too much emphasis on the fact that the possible guilty party is a victim, that offends me," the minister said.

The case has sparked a battle between Europe and emerging powers over who should fill Strauss-Kahn's role at the helm of the world lender.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is tipped as a likely successor, thereby maintaining the unwritten rule that a European should occupy the post.

However, emerging economic giants, including China and Brazil, are arguing that the time has come for an IMF chief from outside the old club.

© 2011 AFP

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