- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — New York police say the maid who accuses the head of the International Monetary Fund of sexually assaulting her in his luxury hotel room picked the Frenchman out of a lineup.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested Saturday and was to be arraigned Sunday evening in a case that, unless the charges are quickly dropped, could destroy his chances in a French presidential race that is just starting to heat up.

The IMF, which plays a key role in efforts to control the European debt crisis, named an acting leader and said it remains “fully functioning and operational” despite Saturday’s arrest on a flight that was getting ready to whisk Mr. Strauss-Kahn to Europe.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told the Associated Press on Sunday that his client will plead not guilty.

“He denies all the charges against him,” Mr. Brafman said. “And that’s all I can really say right now.”

He and another lawyer went in and out of the Harlem police precinct where Mr. Strauss-Kahn was being held early Sunday afternoon, and declined to answer reporters’ questions until the arraignment, which was expected later Sunday.

Mr. Brafman is one of the city’s most high-profile defense attorneys. His clients have included mobsters and such celebrities as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and ex-New York Giants star Plaxico Burress.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, was arrested less than four hours after the alleged assault, plucked from first class on a Paris-bound Air France flight that was just about to leave the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The white-haired, well-dressed, thrice-married father of four was alone when he checked into the luxury Sofitel hotel, not far from Manhattan’s Times Square, on Friday afternoon, police said. It wasn’t clear why he was in New York. The IMF is based in Washington, and he had been due in Germany on Sunday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the Greek debt crisis.

The 32-year-old maid told authorities that when she entered his spacious, $3,000-a-night suite early Saturday afternoon, she thought it was unoccupied. Instead, Mr. Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her, New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne said.

The woman told police she fought him off, but then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again, escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn was gone by the time detectives arrived moments later. He left his cellphone behind.

“It looked like he got out of there in a hurry,” Mr. Browne said.

The NYPD discovered he was at JFK and contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Port Authority officers arrested him.

The maid was taken by police to a hospital and was treated for minor injuries. Stacy Royal, a spokeswoman for Sofitel, said the hotel’s staff was cooperating in the investigation and that the maid “has been a satisfactory employee of the hotel for the past three years.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Authorities were looking for any forensic evidence and DNA.

His wife, Anne Sinclair, defended him in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

“I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established,” said Mrs. Sinclair, a New York-born journalist who hosted a popular weekly news broadcast in France in the 1980s.

Caroline Atkinson, an IMF spokeswoman, issued a statement Sunday that said the agency would have no comment on the New York case. She referred all inquiries to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s personal lawyer and said the “IMF remains fully functioning and operational.”

Another IMF spokesman, William Murray, said the fund’s executive board would be briefed on developments related to the case later Sunday, and John Lipsky, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, would lead the organization in an acting capacity in Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s absence.

The IMF is responsible for one-third of Greece’s existing loan package, and Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s expected meeting with Mrs. Merkel and his planned presence at a Tuesday gathering of EU finance ministers in Brussels underlined the gravity of the Greek crisis.



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