Former IMF chief Strauss-Kahn acquitted in pimping trial

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Acquitted of Sex Crime

LILLE, France (AP) — Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was cleared of pimping charges on Friday in France, ending four years of legal drama that began with a sexual assault charge in a New York hotel room.

The trial hinged on sex parties that took place in the midst of the global financial crisis — events Strauss-Kahn described as much-needed "recreational sessions" at a time of intense pressure to steer the world through economic peril. He said he did not know the women who took part were prostitutes.

In often sordid testimony, the women involved in the sex parties described sometimes-brutal nights that, they said, were not fun for them at all.

The panel of judges ruled that Strauss-Kahn, a one-time French presidential hopeful whose political career was tarnished by the allegations, was not involved in hiring the women or paying them.

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Former IMF chief Strauss-Kahn acquitted in pimping trial
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrives to his hotel in Lille, northern France, on February 17, 2015. A French prosecutor called for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be acquitted of pimping charges in a trial which has seen lurid details of the former IMF chief's sex life exposed in court. The 65-year-old who was once tipped for the French presidency has denied knowing the women at the orgies were prostitutes, or that he organised for them to be there, which could have landed him in jail for up to 10 years for pimping. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (L) and his partner Myriam L'Aouffir attend a match during the men's third round of the Roland Garros 2015 French Tennis Open in Paris on May 30, 2015. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves his hotel on his way to the Lille courthouse, northern France, to attend a trial where he is charged alongside 13 others for 'aggravated pimping' on February 12, 2015. Strauss-Kahn steadfastly denies knowing that the women with whom he engaged in 'free and friendly' libertinism were prostitutes, saying paying for sex would be too great a risk for a man at the head of the International Monetary Fund, which was busy 'saving the world from an unprecedented' financial crisis. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
French-born brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld, aka 'Dodo la Saumure' ('Dodo the Pimp'), speaks to the press as he leave the courthouse in Lille, northern France, on February 5, 2015, following his appearance in court for a French pimping trial involving a former IMF chief. The first part of the multi-faceted trial with 14 accused is focused on a prostitution ring allegedly run by the owners and a publicist for the luxury Carlton hotel in the northern city of Lille. Members of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's entourage are accused of procuring prostitutes from Rene Kojfer, 74, former public relations manager for the Carlton and Jade's employer Dominique Alderweireld, a notorious brothel owner in Belgium just across the border who is known as 'Dodo the Pimp'. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
French-born pimp Dominique Alderweireld or 'Dodo la Saumure' arrives at the courthouse in the northern French city of Lille, on June 12, 2015, for the so-called 'Lille Carlton Hotel Case' trial. One-time French presidential hopeful and former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn looked likely to be acquitted in the latest legal snare over his sexual escapades when a French judge rules on pimping charges against him. AFP PHOTO / DENIS CHARLET (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
Femen activists are detained by police after jumping in front of the car carrying former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (not seen) upon his arrival for his trial in Lille, northern France, on February 10, 2015. Three topless women from the protest group Femen jumped on the car of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the former IMF chief arrived to testify at his trial for 'aggravated pimping.' With slogans scrawled on their half-naked bodies and hurling insults at the car, the three protesters were quickly rounded up by police as the car entered an underground parking area. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police detain a topless Femen activist who jumped on the car carrying former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (not seen) upon his arrival for his trial in Lille, northern France, on February 10, 2015. Three topless women from the protest group Femen jumped on the car of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the former IMF chief arrived to testify at his trial for 'aggravated pimping.' With slogans scrawled on their half-naked bodies and hurling insults at the car, the three protesters were quickly rounded up by police as the car entered an underground parking area. AFP PHOTO / DENIS CHARLET (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
A Femen activist reacts as she is detained by police after she jumped in front of the car carrying former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (not seen) upon his arrival for his trial in Lille, northern France, on February 10, 2015. Three topless women from the protest group Femen jumped on the car of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the former IMF chief arrived to testify at his trial for 'aggravated pimping.' With slogans scrawled on their half-naked bodies and hurling insults at the car, the three protesters were quickly rounded up by police as the car entered an underground parking area. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police detain a topless Femen activist who jumped in front of the car carrying former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (not seen) as he arrives for his trial in Lille, northern France, on February 10, 2015. Three topless women from the protest group Femen jumped on the car of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the former IMF chief arrived to testify at his trial for 'aggravated pimping.' With slogans scrawled on their half-naked bodies and hurling insults at the car, the three protesters were quickly rounded up by police as the car entered an underground parking area. AFP PHOTO / DENIS CHARLET (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
Police detain topless Femen activists who jumped in front of the car carrying former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (not seen) as he arrives for his trial in Lille, northern France, on February 10, 2015. Three topless women from the protest group Femen jumped on the car of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the former IMF chief arrived to testify at his trial for 'aggravated pimping.' With slogans scrawled on their half-naked bodies and hurling insults at the car, the three protesters were quickly rounded up by police as the car entered an underground parking area. AFP PHOTO / DENIS CHARLET (Photo credit should read DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)
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Prostitution is currently legal in France, but prostitutes are often arrested and charged for soliciting in public. Brothels, pimping and the sale of sex by minors is illegal.

The 147-page verdict was the last step in four years of legal drama for Strauss-Kahn that began when a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011, killing his ambitions to be French president. That case was later settled out of court.

The New York allegations shook France — both because it lost a leading presidential contender and because it splashed allegations about a French public figure's private life onto media worldwide.

It prompted expectations among many women in France that the country would start holding male politicians accountable for infidelity or other sexual misconduct that had long been ignored.

The maid's accusations prompted some French women to go public with accusations of harassment or other sexual mistreatment by Strauss-Kahn in the past, including a writer who tried to sue him for attempted rape but whose case was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired.

In the four years since, however, French attitudes have stayed generally unchanged. The media and public largely shrugged when President Francois Hollande was photographed in 2013 by a gossip magazine taking a scooter to visit his lover, unbeknown to his first lady.

While attitudes have changed little toward public figures' private lives, movement is afoot in France to crack down on prostitution. The lower house of parliament approved a controversial bill Friday that , if also approved by the upper house, would make French law one of the toughest in Europe against prostitutes' clients, punishing the buyer instead of the seller.

Strauss-Kahn, 66, was among more than a dozen defendants, including hotel managers, entrepreneurs, a lawyer and a police chief. They were accused of participating in or organizing the collective sexual encounters in Paris, Washington and in the Brussels region in 2008-2011, when Strauss-Kahn was IMF chief and married. Only one, a hotel manager, was convicted in the pimping case.

"We knew that the contradictory and public debate would show the total emptiness of this case," said Henri Leclerc, one of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers.

During the three-week trial in February, the man known in France as DSK never wavered in his insistence that he did not know that the young women at the parties were prostitutes. He said he thought they were simply "libertine."

The sometimes tearful testimony of two prostitutes cast a harsh light on Strauss-Kahn's sexual practices. But they testified that they had never told him directly about their professions.

Other defendants described their voluntary efforts to protect their powerful friend from embarrassment.

Even the prosecutor, unusually, asked for Strauss-Kahn's acquittal, saying the trial did not back up the charge of aggravated pimping, which requires proof that he promoted or profited from prostitution. However, the prosecutor asked for conviction of the co-defendants who admitted having organized the evenings and paid the girls.

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Angela Charlton and Lori Hinnant contributed from Paris.

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