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A chambermaid’s rights




Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop

Most every detail surrounding the arrest of Dominique Strauss- Kahn blew right out the “Law and Order” storybook. Detectives board an Air France jet about to taxi off for Paris and pull Strauss- Kahn right out of his first-class seat. (They dispense with cuffs.) Before the head of the august International Monetary Fund knew it, he was spending Sunday as a guest of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit in East Harlem.

The 62- year- old European power broker par excellence is charged with the attempted rape of a 32-year-old chambermaid in his Manhattan hotel. The cleaning woman IDs him in a lineup, as prosecutors seek possible DNA evidence under his fingernails.

Made me proud to be an American. No matter that Strauss-Kahn was a top contender for president of France. No matter that the chambermaid is an immigrant from Africa. The staff at the fancy Sofitel New York, where he was staying in a $3,000-a-night suite, immediately called 911 to report the alleged attack. The evidence against Strauss-Kahn was strong enough to warrant an arrest, and arrested he was.

Special protection for Mr. Big was not forthcoming. No one, it appears, was taking a payoff to make Strauss-Kahn’s troubles go away. No calls reportedly arrived from the power halls of Washington or Wall Street to smooth things over for this man of enormous political and financial clout. That Europe’s future rested on his shoulders did not outweigh the rights of the faceless woman who cleaned hotel rooms.

Strauss- Kahn denies that he chased her down a hallway, dragged her into the bedroom, chased her again after she escaped and pulled her into a bathroom. That was the chambermaid’s account. (She had entered the room at 1 p.m. on checkout day to clean, supposedly thinking it unoccupied.) Like any other defendant, Strauss-Kahn is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

But he is a perfect “Law and Order” arrestee. A Socialist Party leader with a taste for the high life, he is not known to deny himself four-fork dining, five-star hotels, Porsches and women he fancies.

Strauss-Kahn cultivated friendships with the top Europeans, advising prime ministers and central bankers. But he was apparently rougher on the lower-downs, particularly women. Married three times, currently to an American, he is a known harasser and admitted to bad judgment in having had an affair in 2008 with an IMF economist who was his subordinate. He could have lost his job over it, but did not.

Rape is another matter, and other alleged victims of his sexual violence are stepping forward. A French novelist who several years ago said that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her is now filing a criminal complaint.

The consequences of this arrest are huge. As IMF head, Strauss- Kahn was the great hope for saving Greece from sinking into a deeper financial crisis and taking much of Europe with it. While the IMF managing director has usually been a European, the departure of Strauss-Kahn threatens that tradition, possibly weakening the continent’s financial influence. In France, he was doing better in the polls than President Nicolas Sarkozy. Unless his current legal troubles are quickly shown to have resulted from a titanic misunderstanding, he’s out of the race for president.

On Monday, Strauss- Kahn was arraigned on attempted rape, criminal sexual assault and unlawful imprisonment in a New York court. Considered a flight risk, he was also denied bail.

All too often, the rich and entitled get to press a thumb on the scales of justice. Happily, here is a high-profile case where that doesn’t seem to be happening. Let justice be served for the chambermaid from Africa. ©2011 The Providence Journal Co.


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