IMF chief to remain jailed in NYC sex-assault case

NEW YORK (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund must remain jailed at least until his next court hearing for attempted rape and other charges, a judge said Monday.

A tired and grim-looking Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared before the Manhattan judge to face charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The top count is punishable by five to 25 years in prison.

Strauss-Kahn is accused of attacking a maid who went in to clean his penthouse suite Saturday at a luxury hotel near Times Square. Defense attorney Benjamin Brafman says his client denies any wrongdoing.

The charges stunned the global financial world and upended French presidential politics. A member of France’s Socialist party, Strauss-Kahn was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political fortunes have been flagging.

Manhattan prosecutors asked the judge to hold Strauss-Kahn without bail, saying his position as IMF head had taken him out of the country previously and that the IMF leader was wealthy and doesn’t live in New York.

“He has almost no incentive to stay in this country and every incentive to leave,” Assistant District Attorney John A. McConnell said. “If he went to France, we would have no legal mechanism to guarantee his return to this country.”

Defense attorneys had suggested bail be set at $1 million and promised the IMF managing director would remain in New York City.

The 32-year-old maid told authorities that when she entered his spacious, $3,000-a-night suite early Saturday afternoon, she thought it was unoccupied. Instead, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her, New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne said.

The woman told police she fought him off, but then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again, escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said.

Strauss-Kahn was gone by the time detectives arrived moments later. He left his cellphone behind.

The NYPD discovered he was at John F. Kennedy International Airport and contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Port Authority police officers arrested him.

The maid was taken by police to a hospital and was treated for minor injuries.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for a 31-year-old novelist, Tristane Banon, said Monday that she was likely to file a criminal complaint in coming days accusing Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her nine years ago. Banon first made a public accusation against Strauss-Kahn in a 2007 French television interview, saying he wrenched open her bra and tried to unbutton her jeans during an attempt to rape her.

Banon’s attorney said that she had been dissuaded from filing charges by her mother, a member of a regional council who belongs to Strauss-Kahn’s Socialist party. Lawyer David Koubbi told French radio RTL that Banon now “knows she’ll be taken seriously.”

McConnell, the prosecutor, said in court Monday that New York authorities are investigating at least one other case of “conduct similar to the conduct alleged” at the Sofitel.

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