IMF Chief's Arrest Leaves French Angry, Dismayed and Defensive

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's attorneys have denied the all abuse counts against him.

ByABC News
May 17, 2011, 1:24 AM

May 17, 2011— -- The French have responded with a range of emotions to the sexual assault allegations against International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Some expressed shock at the charges and others anger over his treatment at the hands of U.S. law enforcement.

"[The U.S. has] an accusatory system," French justice minister Elisabeth Guigou said on France Info radio. "We have a system that takes perhaps a little more time but which is, despite everything, more protective of individual rights."

Strauss-Kahn, 62, has been accused of the attempted rape of a maid in a $3,000-a-night New York hotel suite. He will remain in jail until his hearing on Friday after a New York City judge deemed him a flight risk.

His attorneys have denied the seven counts against him, which included allegedly forcing the housekeeper to perform oral sex and submit to anal sex after taking her prisoner inside the luxury suite.

Some of Strauss-Kahn's allies in France have come to his defense. His rush to leave the French-owned Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan was not an attempt to flee the alleged crime scene but to honor previous plans to have lunch with his daughter, according to comments in the New York Times attributed to Socialist politician Jean-Christophe Cambadelis Monday.

Others have expressed dismay at the widely viewed photos of the handcuffed Strauss-Kahn being escorted by police. It is illegal in France for the media to show images of a person accused of a crime before conviction, so the imagery of the IMF chief handcuffed gracing the covers of French newspapers has alarmed many there.

And the accusations alone against the once-likely presidential candidate -- a front-runner, no less -- have been enough to rattle the country. Strauss-Kahn was the favorite to run for president on the Socialist Party ticket against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in France's upcoming election. Many believe that his political ambitions are now over. First secretary of the French Socialist Party Martine Aubry called the situation a "thunderbolt" in a statement Sunday.

"A lot of politicians are known to have affairs, and it doesn't scandalize people," ABC News correspondent Jeffrey Kofman said in his radio report today. "But this is something entirely different. A sexual assault, a rape goes way beyond that and people are very upset. They're quite horrified by that, by the prospect of this, these accusations being true. And it takes it to another dimension."

According to the criminal complaint filed against Strauss-Kahn, when the hotel maid entered the suite Saturday to clean the room, Strauss-Kahn surprised her and immediately attacked her, attempting to have sex. When she tried to run away, she alleged, Strauss-Kahn locked the door to the suite, dragged her into a room, forcing numerous sex acts on her.

All told, Strauss-Kahn has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, one count of attempted rape, sexual abuse in the first degree, unlawful imprisonment, sexual abuse in the third degree and forcible touching. The complaint filed in Criminal Court in Manhattan charges that he forcibly touched the housekeeper's breasts, attempted to pull off her panty hose, twice "forcibly made contact with his penis and the informant's mouth" and that "the defendant engaged in oral sexual conduct and anal sexual conduct with another person by forcible compulsion."

Police say Strauss-Kahn left the Sofitel in a hurry but later called the hotel to say he'd left his cell phone in his room. ABC News has learned that hotel employees, coached by police on the scene, coerced Strauss-Kahn into saying that he was at New York's Kennedy Airport about to get on an Air France flight to Paris.

At 4:30 p.m., New York Port Authority officers boarded the flight minutes before departure and took Strauss-Kahn into custody, who, sources say, asked no questions and made no comments.

He spent Sunday night sleeping in a squad room chair in a New York Police Department Special Victims Unit in Harlem.