It took just seven minutes and two words, but Dominique Strauss-Kahn left court on Monday hoping he can save himself from lifelong disgrace and years in prison.
Asked by Judge Michael Obus how he pleaded to seven counts of sex crimes in the alleged attempted rape of a New York hotel maid, Mr. Strauss-Kahn stood and in a quiet voice stated: “Not guilty.” The brief arraignment hearing kicked off what promises to be a formidable attempt by the wealthy French politician and fallen head of the IMF to clear his name.
Wearing a tie and dark suit and looking rested, the 62-year-old hardly resembled the haggard man hauled into court after his arrest in an open-necked shirt and with stubble on his chin.
Alongside him, in a flashy light grey suit, was his lawyer to the stars, Benjamin Brafman. Behind him, in the first row of the crammed, high-ceilinged courtroom, sat his wife, multi-millionaire art heiress Anne Sinclair.
But what neither money nor power could prevent were the cries of women coming through the windows of the 13th floor court: a busload of hotel chambermaids chanting: “Shame on you!”
The shrill cries punctured the decorum of the courtroom, signalling how bitter this already sensational case will become and underlining that in some parts Mr. Strauss-Kahn is already as good as guilty. Dressed in black and white maids' uniforms, the protesters came to support the still-unidentified, 32-year-old immigrant from west Africa who says she was chased by a naked Mr. Strauss-Kahn and forced to give oral sex. The maid's lawyer said after the arraignment that she would eventually have her day in court too.
“It was a terrible sex assault on an innocent woman. She's going to come to the court house. She's going to tell the truth. What she wants is justice,” said attorney Kenneth Thompson.
In duelling press conferences, Mr. Brafman addressed the same horde of journalists, telling them that Mr. Strauss-Kahn's not guilty plea amounted, in those two simple words, to “a very eloquent, powerful statement”.