NEW YORK, JUN 5 – Fallen IMF chief and French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn enjoyed final calm Sunday before heading to a New York court to plead not guilty to charges that he tried to rape a hotel maid.
In his luxury rental house in Manhattan\’s TriBeCa neighborhood the 62-year-old French politician stayed shuttered away from the waiting media, while his wife, a famous former journalist in France, went shopping.
Early Monday Strauss-Kahn was due at New York State Supreme Court where he will enter a plea of not guilty, formally kicking off his attempt to beat charges that on May 14 he assaulted the Sofitel chambermaid and forced her to give him oral sex.
The TriBeCa house boasts a gym, a movie theater and other trappings, but Strauss-Kahn, who\’d been seen as likely to topple President Nicolas Sarkozy in France\’s next election, is under 24-hour armed guard and allowed to leave only under restrictive conditions.
The house arrest in one of America\’s most expensive neighborhoods has given Strauss-Kahn a high degree of privacy as he huddles with lead defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, who has represented a number of high-profile stars including Michael Jackson.
It also allows Strauss-Kahn\’s family to resume a relatively normal pace of life. Last week movers delivered paintings and other household items to the address and Strauss-Kahn\’s multi-millionaire wife Anne Sinclair returned Saturday with shopping from the midtown toy store and tourist magnet FAO Schwarz.
After his shocking arrest — just before he was about to depart to Paris on an Air France jet — Strauss-Kahn spent almost a week in detention cells and in an isolation wing of Rikers Island prison.
On Monday Strauss-Kahn appears before Judge Michael Obus to respond to the charges. His lawyers have repeatedly said he will plead not guilty, which means preparations for a trial would start, although jury selection might still be many months away.
He has resigned from his post as head of the International Monetary Fund, throwing the global lender and economic policy powerhouse into disarray just as it grapples with debt crises in the European Union.
However, Strauss-Kahn insists he will clear his name and he has a hired powerful legal team to take on the Manhattan District Attorney\’s office.
In addition to Brafman, he is employing private investigators believed to be digging into the personal life of the so-far unidentified maid, who immigrated from Guinea. Lawyers said claim to have information that could "gravely undermine" her position, but they have not given more detail.
The prosecution is also led by big guns Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and Ann Prunty. Illuzzi-Orbon is head of the Manhattan District Attorney\’s hate crimes unit.
A series of leaks indicates that police collected considerable physical evidence from the crime scene and medical examinations of both the alleged victim and the accused. Media outlets also reported the discovery of sperm traces on the maid\’s shirt.
Brafman has hinted at a possible argument that a sexual encounter did take place between the then head of the IMF and the west African immigrant, but that it was consensual.