Strauss-Kahn pimping trial ends in smiles
Beaming former IMF director says he felt he was listened to, unlike some defendants
Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves his hotel during the third week of the so-called “Lille Carlton Hotel Case” trial. Photograph: Getty
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s three-week trial for aggravated pimping ended late yesterday with a show of bonhomie and self-congratulations all around.
At the end of a French trial, every defendant is asked if he or she would like to make a statement. The trial had gone so well for the former director of the International Monetary Fund – with civil plaintiffs withdrawing their suits against him, and the prosecutor defending his case better than Strauss- Kahn’s own attorneys – that some speculated “DSK” would remain silent rather than risk offending.
In the event, Strauss-Kahn spoke only two sentences. “These hearings were the first time that I was given the opportunity to explain myself, and that I felt I was listened to. I thank you for that.” In other words, the investigating magistrates who amassed the 44 cardboard boxes filled with evidence, piled in front of the judges, had not really listened.
The magistrates, absent throughout the trial, have become the favourite punching bag for the prosecutor, Frédéric Fevrè, and for Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers.
The “Mafia-like pimping ring” which they sent to trial boiled down to “a group of friends who partied to accomplish sexual acts, to satisfy egos, ambitions or simply physical desires” in Fevrè’s eyes. Fevrè then congratulated the presiding judge, Bernard Lemaire, for the quality of the debates.
Lemaire thanked all involved for contributing to a dignified trial. There were smiles and relief all around; the old boys hung together.
A beaming Strauss-Kahn walked into the public section of the courtroom where he was surrounded by ageing women seeking autographs. Even on difficult days on the witness stand, DSK ogled women in the audience during breaks in procedure.
Most of Strauss-Kahn’s co-defendants had nothing to add to their lawyers’ pleas. After providing women for the sex parties organised on behalf of DSK, Dominique Alderweireld, better known as “Dodo la Saumure”, became the most famous pimp in France.
In theory, 13 of the 14 defendants risked up to 10 years in prison and a €1.5 million fine.
The prosecutor’s recommendations were surprisingly lenient; “Dodo” was the only defendant for whom he requested a year in prison. “Dodo” had a bone to pick with the former prostitutes who had testified against him, denouncing the slovenly, 24/7 brothel where they slept 12 to a room in sleeping bags. They had paid Dodo €30 to €40, plus a €5 cleaning fee, for every client they received.
“I never incited any of the civil plaintiffs to prostitute themselves,” Dodo said. “They did it before they knew me and continued after they left . . . If every woman who had financial problems became prostitutes, there’d be 10 times as many. It’s their decision.”
Three judges will now deliberate and hand down their verdict on June 12th.
And although Strauss-Kahn is universally expected to be cleared, there were dissident voices. Jade, the former prostitute who stood up to him in court, told journalists she believed the other defendants had banded together to protect him.
“Even if he says he didn’t know that we were prostitutes, I know that he knew. His big lectures about the choice of libertinage – I know they’re not credible, but that doesn’t change anything. It’s not my problem anymore.”
Daoud said the three-week courtroom drama “was not just the trial of 14 accused, not only the trial of pimping and prostitution. Our society was also on trial.” Indeed, the defendants were a cross-section of France, from the former presidential hopeful and his cronies to the once-respected notables of Lille: a police commissioner; a prominent lawyer; the owner of a five-star hotel.
Some 400 prostitution trials are held in France every year. “Without question,” prosecutor Fevrè said, Strauss-Kahn’s involvement “gave this trial an unusual dimension – political, moral and media . . .Without him, this affair would have been judged a long time ago, amid general indifference.”
At the end of March, the French senate will debate a draft law that would punish men who have sex with prostitutes; too late to affect Strauss-Kahn.