- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2011

NEW YORK — The former International Monetary Fund head charged with trying to rape a Manhattan hotel maid formally said he was innocent of the charges Monday in his first court appearance in the case in two weeks.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty in a strong voice at the brief proceeding, standing between his defense team as his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, watched. He already had said he’s innocent.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Orbus went through the formality of telling Strauss-Kahn he needed to appear in court and had a right to be present at his trial to which the economist said “yes.” His next court date is set for July 18.

The French diplomat appeared in state Supreme Court in Manhattan for the first time since he was released on $6 million in cash bail and bond last month. He has been under house arrest that includes 24-hour monitors and armed guards, first in a downtown Manhattan apartment and now in a deluxe, $50,000-a-month Tribeca town house.

The case has been intensely followed around the world, spawning news reports even about food deliveries to his home. His arrest rocked politics in France, where Strauss-Kahn had been considered a potential contender in next year’s presidential elections, and shook up the IMF. He resigned his post at the powerful lending body after his arrest, and the powerful lending organization has yet to name his replacement.

Strauss-Kahn was arraigned on charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The most serious charge carries a maximum term of five to 25 years in prison.

The 32-year-old maid at the Sofitel near Times Square in Manhattan told police Strauss-Kahn chased her down a hallway in his Sofitel hotel suite May 14, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex.

Prosecutors said last month that evidence against Strauss-Kahn was building by the day. Tests have found Strauss-Kahn’s DNA matched material on the woman’s uniform shirt, people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

But Strauss-Kahn lawyer Benjamin Brafman told a judge May 16 that the defense believed any forensic evidence “will not be consistent with a forcible encounter” — a remark that could signal his lawyers are planning to argue the episode was consensual. They have declined to comment on their plans.

And in a letter to prosecutors last month, Brafman and fellow Strauss-Kahn lawyer William W. Taylor said they had — but wouldn’t yet release — information that “would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in this case.”

Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Colleen Long contributed to this report.