The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has pleaded not guilty to charges he sexually assaulted a maid in a New York City hotel last month. Dozens of unionized hotel workers jeered Strauss-Kahn as he entered and left the courthouse.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s court appearance lasted just five minutes. He pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault and the judge reminded the defendant he must appear for trial or risk losing his multi-million-dollar bail.
Strauss-Kahn’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters afterwards that any suggestion of forced sex on the part of his client is simply not credible.
“In our judgment, once the evidence is reviewed, it will be clear that there was no element of forcible compulsion in this case whatsoever,” said Brafman.
Several dozen hotel maids dressed in work uniforms shouted, “Shame on you!” as Strauss-Kahn entered and left the courthouse. The maids said they were supporting the accuser, a 32-year-old African immigrant from Guinea.
Maid Izmenia Lapaz says abuse of hotel workers is not uncommon.
“Abusing is all over. And we want to stop that," said Lapaz. "So let the whole world know what is going on.”
Lapaz is a member of the Hotel Trades Council, a union that represents hotel workers. The organization is proposing that room attendants be issued panic buttons, electronic devices that would send an alarm in case of trouble. Union spokesman John Turchiano said panic buttons would deter potentially rowdy guests.
“We are hoping that the hotel association will agree to panic buttons for the room attendants, and hopefully enhanced training not just for our members, but for management staff as well,” he said.
Strauss-Kahn is charged with seven counts of sexual assault. They include two felony charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 25 years in prison. His next court appearance has been set for July 18.