SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
French court yesterday acquitted the former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of charges of pimping. The case stemmed from a string of sex parties organized between 2008 and 2011 in France, Belgium and Washington, D.C. The verdict put an end to four years of legal drama that began with a sexual assault charge in New York City. Please note, the next two reports contain mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for some audiences. We begin with NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: On Friday, a judge in the northern French city of Lille cleared Dominique Strauss-Kahn and 12 others of charges of organizing prostitutes for so-called libertine soirees. Frequenting a prostitute is legal in France, but organizing their services is not. Strauss-Kahn never denied he took part in the orgies, but said he did not know the women were prostitutes. In the end, the judge agreed. The verdict came four months after a trial that had laid bare the sordid details of Strauss-Kahn's, by his own admission, brutal sexuality. Laura Marlowe, correspondent in France for The Irish Times, was inside the courtroom during the trial.
LAURA MARLOWE: There was one very vivid description of an orgy and a partner-swapping club in Belgium, where there were dozens of people, according to the former prostitute who was testifying.
BEARDSLEY: Strauss-Kahn told the judge the orgies were recreational sessions he needed to let off steam during the global financial crisis. Marlowe said it was particularly disturbing when the prostitutes talked about his rough handling.
MARLOWE: One of them testified that she was crying when he was doing this. And he said, oh, I didn't notice. If I'd noticed, it would've turned me off.
BEARDSLEY: Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have been head of the IMF and the likely next president of France, but all that came to an end on May 14, 2011 on the tarmac of JFK airport. That's when New York police took him off his Paris-bound flight because a New York chambermaid said he had sexually assaulted her. Pictures of an unshaven, haggard Strauss-Kahn doing the perp walk shocked France. In the end, the criminal case was dropped over the accuser's credibility, but Strauss-Kahn paid to settle a civil case. For a while, some French were sympathetic, but in the end, even his staunchest supporters, like biographer Michele Taubmann, conceded Strauss-Kahn was to blame.
MICHELE TAUBMANN: When you're an important man, you don't have a sexual relation with a girl you don't know inside of a hotel in New York, you know?
BEARDSLEY: When Strauss-Kahn returned to France, his troubles didn't end. A young journalist who said she was inspired by the courage of the hotel maid said he'd tried to rape her in 2006. Then came the accusations centered around the alleged prostitution ring. Christopher Mesnooh, a lawyer in Paris and New York, has followed the cases against Strauss-Kahn closely.
CHRISTOPHER MESNOOH: Despite two different legal systems attempting to find this man guilty of something, neither has managed to do it. So the law, which appears to be his biggest enemy at the beginning, turns out to be perhaps a very good friend of his at the end.
BEARDSLEY: Strauss-Kahn may never return to politics, and his wife's divorced him. But he's now a successful economic consultant to several governments in Eastern Europe and Asia, and he has a new girlfriend. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.