(Bloomberg) -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, was cleared of aggravated pimping by French judges on charges stemming from a string of sex parties he attended five years ago.
A panel of French judges issued the verdict in Lille Friday, saying there was conflicting testimony against him from seven prostitutes and insufficient evidence that the 66-year-old Strauss-Kahn helped plan the gatherings.
“We cannot impute the role of instigator on someone who exchanged 35 text messages over a period of 22 months,” one of the judges said.
The verdict is a small consolation for Strauss-Kahn, whose career has been derailed by a series of sex scandals. He was once the leading candidate to replace former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011 when he was pulled off an Air France jet in New York and accused of assaulting a hotel maid. While the charges were eventually dropped, his reputation never recovered.
“We knew that the the contradictory public testimony would show the emptiness of this case,” Henri Leclerc, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, told reporters after the verdict.
The trial brings to a close the so-called Carlton Affair, named for the hotel in the northeastern French town of Lille where some of the sex parties were held. Strauss-Kahn admitted he had attended similar gatherings elsewhere, but stressed that they were private, consensual affairs and he couldn’t have known the women were prostitutes.
Thirteen of the 14 defendants were acquitted on the pimping charges. Rene Kojfer, the Carlton Hotel’s director of marketing, was given a one-year suspended sentence.
While prostitution and paying for sex aren’t illegal in France, procuring prostitutes for others is.
The testimony at the Lille trial about orgies and car rides with prostitutes titillated France and all but torpedoed the chances of a public comeback for the former French presidential hopeful. Women who took the witness stand testified that he forced them into “animal” sex and were brought to tears by his behavior.
“Everyone can see that there was strictly no legal basis for this case, and that this entire affair, and the uproar surrounding it, should give us reason to reflect,” Leclerc said.
Strauss-Kahn told the court at the time that he had a right to a private life and that he was being prosecuted for his lifestyle more than anything else. Dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt and dark blue tie Friday, Strauss-Kahn stood expressionless as the judge delivered his verdict.
The judge also said that he could not find Strauss-Kahn guilty when he had not taken part in the sex parties in the French town of Lille, which linked the 14 defendants.
Even Dominique “Dodo La Saumure” Alderweireld, who runs a chain of massage parlors and was the sole defendant for whom the prosecutor recommended a prison term, was acquitted.
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