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Judge denies Strauss-Kahn immunity claim

By the CNN Wire Staff
May 1, 2012 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
Ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn wants to dismiss a civil suit brought by a hotel maid, claiming he has diplomatic immunity.
Ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn wants to dismiss a civil suit brought by a hotel maid, claiming he has diplomatic immunity.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A motion to dismiss the case was denied
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn was head of the International Money Fund
  • Criminal charges that he assaulted a New York hotel housekeeper were dropped
  • But the housekeeper filed a civil suit

(CNN) -- A New York judge Tuesday rejected claims by former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn that a civil lawsuit against him should be dismissed because he was protected by diplomatic immunity.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon denied a motion by Strauss-Kahn's lawyers to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed by a hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault last year.

A lawyer for the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, said his client was pleased with the decision.

"We are extremely pleased with Judge McKeon's well-reasoned and articulate decision recognizing that Strauss-Kahn is not entitled to immunity," said attorney Douglas H. Wigdor. "We have said all along that Strauss-Kahn's desperate plea for immunity was a tactic designed to delay these proceedings and we now look forward to holding him accountable for the brutal sexual assault that he committed."

Strauss-Kahn headed the IMF, an international organization of 187 member-states with headquarters in Washington. The IMF provides loans to countries that are suffering economic difficulties.

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He resigned his position soon after his arrest by New York police in May 2011, when he was charged with criminally assaulting a housekeeper in a Manhattan hotel suite.

Diallo accused Strauss-Kahn of raping her when she entered his suite to clean it. Police subsequently removed him from an Air France flight that was about to depart New York's Kennedy Airport and jailed him before his arraignment in criminal court.

Strauss-Kahn's attorneys later said a consensual sexual encounter did take place with the maid but there was no force involved.

The arrest of such a high-profile international political figure who was preparing a presidential run in his native France sparked worldwide media interest. But the criminal case against Strauss-Kahn was later dropped by New York prosecutors, because of credibility issues they cited in Diallo's account.

"At the end of the day, they did something very courageous by dismissing the case," one of his lawyers, Benjamin Brafman, told CNN's Piers Morgan Monday night. "It took a lot of guts to do that. It was the right decision. That case was fed by a media frenzy unlike any I've seen."

In August, Diallo's lawyers served Strauss-Kahn with a civil suit seeking damages stemming from the alleged assault in the hotel.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers did not invoke his immunity from prosecution during the criminal case. Wigdor ridiculed the fact that they would invoke it in the civil case, but not the criminal case, as "piecemeal immunity."

But Strauss-Kahn attorney Amit Mehta countered that his client was eager to assert his innocence in the criminal proceedings, so he didn't invoke whatever immunity he enjoyed as IMF chief.

In his decision, the judge wrote that "Mr. Strauss-Kahn cannot eschew immunity in an effort to clear his name only to embrace it now in an effort to deny Ms. Diallo the opportunity to clear hers."

In the months following Diallo's accusation last year, other allegations surfaced. Anne Mansouret, a Socialist member of the French parliament, said Strauss-Kahn had attacked her daughter. A complaint was filed, alleging a 2002 attack, though it could not be pursued because the statute of limitations had expired.

Currently, Strauss-Kahn faces another legal battle -- this time centering on an investigation into a high-profile prostitution network operating out of luxury hotels in the French city of Lille.

Strauss-Kahn has been formally warned by French authorities that he is under investigation for "aggravated pimping," and has been released on 100,000-euro bail. He has pushed back against the accusations, saying he did not know young women at parties he attended were being paid for sex.

CNN's Hussein Saddique contributed to this report.

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