Strauss-Kahn is cleared in 'aggravated pimping' trial
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief has been acquitted of "aggravated pimping" in a verdict that ends four years of legal woes for the one-time French presidential favourite.
The 66-year-old remained impassive as the judge in Lille said Mr Strauss-Kahn had "behaved as a customer", not a pimp, when taking part in orgies in Lille, Paris, Brussels and Washington in 2008-2011.
He had risked a maximum prison term of 10 years and a €1.5m fine.
The verdict was as expected following the prosecutor's call to acquit him "pure and simple". It spells the end of a four-year legal drama that began when a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011, killing his presidential ambitions. Criminal charges were dropped and a civil suit later settled with Nafissatou Diallo out of court for an undisclosed sum. Mr Strauss-Kahn (66) was among 14 defendants, including hotel managers, entrepreneurs, a lawyer and a police chief, all accused of participating in or organising sex parties.
The most severe charge was against brothel boss Dominique Alderweireld, known as "Dodo the Pimp", accused of sending prostitutes from Belgium to the parties just over the border.
Calling him "the boss" of a prostitution ring operating out of Lille's Carlton hotel, the prosecutor had called for a one-year prison term and a fine of €10,000. But the judge acquitted the outspoken brothel owner, saying there was no proof he had acted as a pimp to send prostitutes over the border to France.
The only conviction was for the Carlton hotel's former PR head, René Kojfer, who was handed a year's suspended sentence for acting as an "intermediary" in recruiting the prostitutes.
The judge had harsh words for the investigating magistrates who led the inquiry into the alleged pimping ring, saying that there were "approximations" and "contradictions" in their accusations. The magistrates had described Mr Strauss-Kahn as the "lynchpin" of a prostitution racket and "king of the party". During the trial, the Lille judge had insisted he was there to apply the penal code, "not the moral code".
Despite the acquittal, it is highly unlikely that Mr Strauss-Kahn will return to frontline politics. A recent Odoxa poll suggested that while 44pc of the French saw him as an "economic expert", only 18pc saw him as a politician and a majority said he should stay away from politics. He is likely to continue his career as a keynote speaker at international conferences for which he is reportedly paid between €50-150,000 for a half-hour talk.
Taking his daughter in his arms in court, Mr Strauss-Kahn said: "All this fuss for nothing! What destruction."
His lawyer, Henri Leclerc, insisted that the investigating magistrates had led their probe along "moral and ideological" lines. "There was strictly no judicial proof in this dossier, the huge circus around this case should be food for thought for us all."
But Lorraine Questiaux of anti-prostitution group Le Mouvement du Nid, a civil plaintiff, said: "I'm shocked. They have turned DSK into a victim. I am thinking of the real victims, and we heard them in this trial. On the one hand, you have women whose lives have been literally broken, and on the other, the powerful ones who can rebuild their lives."
In his ruling, Bernard Lemaire, the presiding judge, said that Mr Strauss-Kahn was "not in a position to know the prostitute status of these young women". Mr Strauss-Kahn, he said, "only benefited, like the other (defendants), from sexual activities. He did not play the role of instigator of these soirées. He behaved like a client, which is not punishable by criminal law."
He added: "He did not participate in the recruitment or payment of these young women."
The verdict after a trial in which Mr Strauss-Kahn's sexual tastes and habits were described in sordid details sparked calls to reform France's all-powerful investigating magistrates, who play an inquisitorial role.
Jack Lang, a friend of Mr Strauss-Kahn and former Socialist culture minister, said: "Once again the question of the role of investigating magistrates is posed in France, not just for DSK, but many other citizens.
"This situation in which a judge can question the honour and dignity of a man or woman for years, generally with the help of the media, has got to stop".
Anti-prostitution groups said the case at least helped the public see the sordid nature of the profession, even when the customers were ex-presidential favourites.