Strauss-Kahn to plead 'not guilty', setting stage for trial
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is expected to plead not guilty to charges of sexual assault and attempted rape when he appears in a US court on Monday. The move would indicate he is hoping for acquittal by a jury.
Follow FRANCE 24's special coverage beginning at 3pm Paris time (GMT+2).
In the anxiously anticipated next step of a saga that has gripped the international political world, French politician and former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn will appear in court Monday to officially respond to charges of sexual assault and attempted rape of a New York hotel maid.
As at the previous hearing, scores of journalists and photographers will swarm the street outside the lower Manhattan court house, waiting for a peek at the man whose fall from grace has made for splashy, sordid front-page news over the last few weeks.
Strauss-Kahn is expected to plead not guilty at the arraignment, which will likely be brief.
The not-guilty plea would indicate that Strauss-Kahn and his legal team are hoping for an acquittal by the jury.
If he pleads guilty, no trial will take place and the defence might obtain a less severe sentence for Strauss-Kahn.
The case, which resulted in the IMF losing a leader and France’s Socialists losing a potentially strong presidential candidate, has also fascinated the French press and public as they watch one of their own subjected to the US legal system.
Defence may claim ‘consensual’ encounter, question accuser’s credibility
Following Strauss-Kahn’s plea on Monday, a trial could begin within a few months to a year. The prosecution will then present evidence and witnesses in front of a 12-person jury, who will then listen to the defence’s arguments to refute the prosecution’s claims.
The prosecution has said that the accuser, a 32-year-old woman from Guinea, told investigators a “compelling and unwavering story” supported by forensic evidence. That evidence is thought to be traces of Strauss-Kahn’s DNA that were reportedly found on the maid’s work uniform and are, according to prosecutors, consistent with the accuser’s account of forced oral sex.
Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers are expected to argue that such evidence does not indicate a “forcible encounter”, and that in fact, the sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and the maid was consensual.
Strauss-Kahn’s legal team has also hinted at what may become one of their primary lines of defence: that the accuser cannot be trusted. They recently stated that they held “substantial information that, in our view, would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant".
New York law prohibits lawyers from exposing a possible rape victim’s sexual history, but Strauss-Kahn’s team will likely take an extensive look at the accuser’s background and may try to prove that she has a history of lying.
Strauss-Kahn himself is not obligated to testify.
After hearing both sides, the jury will be asked to reach a unanimous verdict.
If the verdict is guilty, the court must decide on the prison term. In the meantime, new witnesses can be introduced by both prosecution and defence in an effort to shorten or increase the sentence.
If convicted, Strauss-Kahn would be given a sentence for each charge – which, in theory, could result in 74 years of prison time. But legal experts have said that a more likely scenario is that Strauss-Kahn, if found guilty, would have to serve concurrent sentences (in which the time in prison equals the length of the longest sentence) rather than consecutive sentences, which are often usually ordered for more severe crimes.
If for whatever reason the accuser chooses to withdraw her charges, the prosecutors may still pursue the trial with the evidence and witnesses they have gathered, since they still have the essential element: the accuser’s initial account of being assaulted by Strauss-Kahn.
On the other hand, New York law prohibits the defence team from resolving the case through a financial settlement with the victim.