The case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn for “aggravated pimping” took a dramatic turn in court on Thursday morning when no one from the prosecution questioned him on the two main elements of evidence against him.
These were text messages exchanged with his close friend Fabrice Paszkowski, who co-organised some 20 sex parties for the benefit of the former director of the International Monetary Fund, and the fact that the apartment Mr Strauss-Kahn rented in Paris was the venue for several of the parties.
Thursday was Mr Strauss-Kahn’s final day in the witness box and he was questioned by the judge but not prosecutors.
Lawyers, judges and other observers said the decision not to question Mr Strauss-Kahn on the two key elements of evidence meant it was now more likely that he would be acquitted.
Through a quirk of the French justice system, the investigating magistrates who charged Strauss-Kahn with “aggravated pimping” and brought the case to trial are not participants. The prosecutor, Frédéric Fevre, who would normally be Strauss-Kahn’s chief accuser and interrogator, argued in the indictment of 14 individuals that there was insufficient evidence to convict Strauss-Kahn.
Article 225.10 of the French penal code says that putting a place at the disposition of a prostitute constitutes pimping. Investigating magistrates interpreted the use of Strauss-Kahn’s Paris apartment for sex parties as pimping.
At times, he owed up to €37,000 in unpaid rent.
In arguing that Strauss-Kahn should be cleared, the prosecutor said the rental could only be considered pimping if it were proven that Strauss-Kahn knew his partners were prostitutes, and if he rented the apartment expressly for that purpose.
The verdict regarding Mr Strauss-Kahn and 13 co-defendants is not expected until late March.
In his summing up on February 17th, the prosecutor, Frederic Fevre, will argue that questioning on February 10th and 11th should not have focused on Mr Strauss-Kahn’s sexual tastes and practices.
When the trial opened at the beginning of February, judge Bernard Lemaire had warned the court: “This tribunal is not the guardian of moral order, but of the law and its strict application.”
Judge Lemaire said the trial would not dwell on the pornographic details revealed in court documents but would “evoke facts only to evaluate them in terms of the criminal offence of aggravated pimping”.
Two former prostitutes, Jade and Mounia, who are civil plaintiffs along with two associations against prostitution, nonetheless gave detailed accounts of their sexual encounters with Mr Strauss-Kahn, and the orgies which they were paid to attend.
The tone changed on Thursday as a result of the French legal system, in which investigating magistrates pressed charges and sent Mr Strauss-Kahn to trial, but did not participate in the trial.
The prosecutor opposed the magistrates’ decision from the outset, saying there was insufficient evidence that Mr Strauss-Kahn was involved in pimping.
Judge Lemaire went through 35 text messages exchanged by Mr Strauss-Kahn and Mr Paszkowski over a 22-month period from 2009 until 2011.
“Do you want to discover a wonderful naughty club with me (and equipment) in Madrid?” Mr Strauss-Kahn wrote in June 2009.
“Equipment” was one of Mr Paszkowski’s terms for the women he procured for Mr Strauss-Kahn’s consumption.
“I only used it once,” Mr Strauss-Kahn said, sounding annoyed. “The tribunal knows that text messages are not supposed to be read out of context.”
In several messages, Mr Strauss-Kahn asked “who will be there?” and “outside the delegation, girlfriends?”
In September 2009, following an orgy in a swingers’ club in Belgium and a three-some in his Brussels hotel room with a girlfriend and a prostitute named Jade, Mr Strauss-Kahn texted Mr Paszkowski: “It was a great evening. We left about 3am and stayed with Jade until 6am. Thanks and see you soon.”
Jade was in tears when she told the court how Mr Strauss-Kahn had sodomised her without her permission that same evening.
Asked why he had rented an apartment in the avenue d’Iena in Paris under a friend’s name, Mr Strauss-Kahn said he was still a politician, and was still married (to Anne Sinclair) and needed a discreet hideaway for political meetings and to receive women.
But in the group indictment in which he asked for Strauss-Kahn to be cleared, the prosecutor wrote that “the fact that prostitutes participated in sexual meetings in this apartment cannot be considered ‘putting at the disposition of,’ since it must be shown that Dominique Strauss-Kahn not only knew that the women who came there were prostitutes, which has not been established, but also that he rented the apartment specially for this purpose, which is not proven.”
Mr Strauss-Kahn gave a cutting reply to a lawyer for the civil plaintiffs who asked his thoughts on the law against pimping: “I’m not before this tribunal to expatiate on that kind of question.”
Another lawyer read transcripts of three phone calls in March 2012. In one, Mr Strauss-Kahn said he expected to be formally placed under investigation in the pimping case.
“Saying I expected it doesn’t mean I was guilty,” Mr Strauss-Kahn said. In another conversation, he said he had spent the day going through the files with one of his lawyers, a woman.
“I’m going to have serious difficulties,” he said to a friend on the phone.
When asked what he meant, Mr Strauss-Kahn laughed. “It was a joke. As soon as I meet a person of the opposite sex, I have problems.”