Story highlights

NEW: 13 of 14 defendants in the case have been cleared of all criminal charges

A judge says there was not enough evidence to convict Strauss-Kahn, a former presidential hopeful

Strauss-Kahn had seemed to have a strong chance at the French presidency until a separate sex scandal erupted in New York

CNN  — 

A court in France acquitted Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, on Friday of charges of aggravated pimping.

Strauss-Kahn, 66, once thought to be a top contender for the French presidency, had been accused in connection with sex parties he attended in various cities across the world.

The judge said Friday that Strauss-Kahn, commonly referred to as DSK, didn’t deny his participation in the sex parties but said he did not know the women were prostitutes.

The judge agreed that the status of the women was not clear, giving a long list of other people who claimed not to know they were prostitutes.

DSK calls self a libertine

Strauss-Kahn, who calls himself a libertine, never recruited or paid the women, the judge said.

Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves the Lille courthouse in northern France in February 2015.

And an analysis of Strauss-Kahn’s text messages did not allow the court to consider him to have been the instigator of the sex parties, the judge said, adding that therefore, Strauss-Kahn did not commit any unlawful acts.

In France, prostitution is legal, but pimping is not.

The Strauss-Kahn verdict was not a surprise. Even the prosecutor in Lille, in northern France, had said previously that there was insufficient evidence to convict the former presidential hopeful.

But investigative magistrates had pursued the case nevertheless.

Sex parties in Belgium, New York, D.C.

Prosecutors also alleged that two other defendants, businessman David Roquet and Fabrice Paszkowski, a businessman friend of Strauss-Kahn, picked up the bills for the sex parties, which took place in places such as Belgium, New York and Washington and were arranged to fit Strauss-Kahn’s schedule.

Both were acquitted.

In fact, the verdicts were a broad defeat for those who had pursued criminal charges. Of the 14 defendants, only one was found guilty of a criminal offense: René Kojfer, the head of public relations at the Lille Carlton hotel, was given a one-year suspended jail sentence for aiding the prostitution of various women and acting as an intermediary between prostitutes and clients.

But politically, the case was an enormous setback for Strauss-Kahn.

In graphic testimony, some of the women involved accused him of sexual brutality. And the picture painted – with parties, nudity, and group sex – was a departure from the staid mistresses that were kept by some former prominent French politicians and generally accepted by the public.

Strauss-Kahn was once considered the leading contender to run against Nicolas Sarkozy for the presidency of France. But in 2011, a maid at a New York hotel accused him of sexual assault.

Strauss-Kahn was initially charged with attempted rape and imprisonment in that case, but the charges were dropped after his accuser admitted lying about some details.

The following year, Strauss-Kahn and the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, reached a settlement in a suit she had filed against him. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.