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Ex-IMF leader pleads not guilty to sex assault

NEW YORK (AP) — The former International Monetary Fund head charged with trying to rape a Manhattan hotel maid formally said he was innocent of the charges Monday in his first court appearance in the case in two weeks.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty in a strong voice at the brief proceeding, standing between his defense team as his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, watched. He already had said he’s innocent.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Orbus went through the formality of telling Strauss-Kahn he needed to appear in court and had a right to be present at his trial to which the economist said “yes.” His next court date is set for July 18.

The French diplomat appeared in state Supreme Court in Manhattan for the first time since he was released on $6 million in cash bail and bond last month. He has been under house arrest that includes 24-hour monitors and armed guards, first in a downtown Manhattan apartment and now in a deluxe, $50,000-a-month Tribeca town house.

About 50 hotel workers who were bused in by their union gathered outside the courthouse, many wearing their work uniforms. They shouted “shame on you” as Strauss-Kahn arrived, and again as he left in a black sport-utility vehicle.

No one involved in the case commented outside the courthouse.

The case has been intensely followed around the world, spawning news reports even about food deliveries to his home. His arrest rocked politics in France, where Strauss-Kahn had been considered a potential contender in next year’s presidential elections, and shook up the IMF. He resigned his post at the powerful lending body after his arrest, and the powerful lending organization has yet to name his replacement.

Strauss-Kahn was arraigned on charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The most serious charge carries a maximum term of five to 25 years in prison.

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