Lawyer: IMF head charged over alleged attempted rape

New York — Authorities charged the head of the International Monetary Fund early Sunday with criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment over an alleged incident in a New York hotel, his lawyer said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, was in police custody in connection with the alleged sexual assault Saturday of a Times Square hotel housekeeping employee, New York Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.

Strauss-Kahn has been charged with criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment, his attorney Benjamin Brafman said in an e-mail early Sunday.

Police pulled the suspect off an Air France flight destined for Paris at John F. Kennedy International Airport after the alleged incident, according to Browne.

He was taken into custody and brought to a Manhattan police station for questioning, Browne said.

Hours earlier, Browne said, Strauss-Kahn emerged naked when the 32-year-old hotel employee entered his room to clean it around 1 p.m. Saturday at the Sofitel hotel.

The housekeeping employee said she didn’t think anyone was in the luxury $3,000-a-night suite when she entered, Browne said Sunday morning.

Browne said Strauss-Kahn ran after her down the hallway of the suite. The suite has its own foyer, hallway, living room, bedroom, conference room and bedroom.

The woman said Strauss-Kahn pulled her into a bedroom and started attacking her.

She fought him off, she told investigators, but Strauss-Kahn then dragged her into the bathroom and forced himself on her. Police said Strauss-Kahn tried to remove her underwear, but the woman got away.

The employee ran to the front desk, Browne said. Hotel staff alerted the New York Police Department.

By the time officers arrived, Strauss-Kahn had left, leaving his cell phone behind at the hotel, according to Browne.

“He left in a hurry,” Browne said. “The alleged victim was taken to Roosevelt Hospital (in Manhattan) and was treated for minor injuries,” Browne said.

Authorities learned the IMF head was on an outbound flight at Kennedy airport. New York police asked their counterparts at the Port Authority to hold the plane.

Two plain-clothes Port Authority police detectives boarded the aircraft “just before the door closed” on the flight, and found Strauss-Kahn seated in first class, said a law enforcement official who had been briefed on the investigation.

He “offered no resistance” when he was led off the plane, after which he was turned over to New York police, the official said.

The hotel is cooperating with authorities, said John Sheehan, the hotel’s director of safety and security.

“We’re taking this matter extremely serious, as it’s developing,” Sheehan said.

A former French finance minister, national legislator and economics professor in Paris, Strauss-Kahn became the IMF’s 10th managing director in November 2007. He is also chairman of the IMF executive board.

While Strauss-Kahn hadn’t officially entered the race, recent French opinion polls showed him leading prospective Socialist Party presidential candidates. The surveys suggested he could pose a challenge to incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election.

The IMF, based in Washington, is a major world player in economic inequalities and crises.

Strauss-Kahn became embroiled in controversy soon after joining the IMF, amid reports — which he later acknowledged — that he’d had an improper relationship with a female employee. The physical relationship was consensual, an independent inquiry found.

The world body’s executive board concluded in October 2008 that “there was no harassment, favoritism or any other abuse of authority by the managing director.”

“Nevertheless, the executive board noted that the incident was regrettable and reflected a serious error of judgment on the part of the managing director, as he has acknowledged and for which he has apologized,” the IMF said in a statement at the time.

Strauss-Kahn also issued a statement following the closing of the investigation, noting that he’d “apologized for it to the (board of directors), to the staff of the IMF and to my family,” as well as “the staff member.”

“I agree with the board that the personal behavior of the managing director sets an important tone for the institution and I am committed, going forward, to uphold the high standards that are expected of this position,” he said in the statement.

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