Dominique Strauss-Kahn stood impassively as a judge announced his acquittal on charges of “aggravated pimping”. Strauss-Kahn’s only comment, muttered to his partner, a Moroccan businesswoman, and his daughter as they exited the courtroom through a side door was “What a waste”.
There was a cheerful atmosphere when the court convened in the morning. Strauss-Kahn smiled and laughed and sat next to his old friend and co-defendant Fabrice Paszkowski, as on the first day of their trial in February.
But in two and a half hours, the mood of the former IMF director and former presidential hopeful shifted. He regained his aura as a master of the universe, puffed up with righteous indignation.
In February, former prostitutes raked through every detail of Strauss-Kahn’s taste for sodomy and group sex. One sensed anger and disgust at the humiliation he’d endured, but no triumphalism.
Innocent man guilty
Strauss-Kahn left it to his lawyers to speak for him. "The house of cards collapsed today," said his lawyer, Richard Malka. "They wanted at all cost to make an innocent man guilty. It didn't work."
Judge Bernard Lemaire named Mounia, Jade, Florence, Hélène, Aurélie, Marie-Anne and Béatrice, prostitutes with whom Strauss-Kahn had sex between March 2008 and October 2011.
“He does not contest having participated,” the judge noted. “He denies having known they were prostitutes.”
Much of the trial focused on whether Strauss-Kahn knew the women were prostitutes, which would have been a crucial element of pimping.
Paszowski and David Roquet, the men who recruited and paid the prostitutes who attended Strauss- Kahn's orgies, were also acquitted, on the grounds they did not retain a commission or gain financially from the transactions.
The prostitutes disagreed among themselves about what Strauss-Kahn knew, the judge noted. He could not have deduced their profession from their clothing or sexual practices, he added.
Other participants in the orgies had not realised the women were prostitutes, including a French painter in Washington, DC to whom Strauss-Kahn “gave” Jade.
Nor did the 35 text messages that Strauss-Kahn exchanged with Paszowski about dates with "equipment" and "cadeaux" establish his role as an "instigator." His behaviour was that of a "client", which is legal in France, and not that of a pimp, the judge said.
Although Paszowski and Roquet were cleared of pimping, both received short suspended sentences and Roquet a small fine for disguising €82,500 in fees for prostitutes and orgies on their business expenses.
The sentences seemed to confirm a bitter observation by Bernard Lemettre, a representative of Le Nid, an association that helps women escape from prostitution, and civil plaintiffs in the trial.
“There’s not much risk to exploiting prostitutes and violence against women,” Lemettre said. “But if you take money, you get convicted.”
Lemettre took heart from Friday’s vote in the National Assembly to criminalise recourse to prostitutes. The left-wing assembly and the right-wing senate disagree on the measure, which would fine clients of prostitutes €1,500 – the amount Mounia was paid for having sex with Strauss-Kahn.
Only one of 13 people charged with pimping was convicted.
Rene Kojfer, the clownish, former police informant and head of public relations for the Carlton Hotel was a small-time pimp who ingratiated himself with fellow Freemasons and friends at the synagogue by procuring women for them. Kojfer received a one-year suspended sentence.
“He feels like the laughingstock, the scapegoat of an affair that was at root more about morality than justice,” said Kojfer’s lawyer.
To widespread surprise, Kojfer's childhood friend and self-professed pimp Dominique Alderweireld, known as "Dodo la Saumure" was acquitted. "Dodo" was the only defendant for whom the prosecutor had recommended prison.
Judge Lemaire had warned at the outset of the trial that the court was “not the guardian of the moral order.”
He and two other judges found many reasons to excuse defendants. The testimony of former prostitutes was not reliable, they said. Dates were not sufficiently precise. The identity of some prostitutes was unknown.
As for the three orgies organised for Strauss-Kahn’s benefit in Washington – recounted in detail during the trial – they were simply outside French jurisdiction.