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Strauss-Kahn sexual assault inquiry dropped in France

October 13, 2011 |  2:30 pm

French prosecutors Thursday dropped an attempted-rape investigation involving former presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who escaped similar charges in New York this year.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said in a statement that Strauss-Kahn had acknowledged behavior that "could be qualified as sexual assault" but it was too late to prosecute the case. Sexual assault is considered a lesser charge under French law with a statute of limitations of three years.

A French journalist and author, Tristane Banon, alleges  that the former International Monetary Fund chief lured her to a Paris apartment in 2003 on the pretext of giving her an interview and tried to rape her. She first publicly discussed the incident years ago, but she did not file an official complaint until after Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York in May on charges that he  had tried to rape a hotel housekeeper.

"Mr. Strauss-Kahn admitted trying to kiss Miss Banon," a judicial official was quoted as saying by the French news agency Agence France-Presse. "He does not admit sexual assault, but that's his opinion. The magistrate, for his part, said it could be regarded as a sexual assault."

Henri Leclerc, one of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, told AFP that his client admits trying to kiss Banon but said there was “no violence of any kind.”

“He was refused and did not insist, allowing her to leave,” Leclerc said.

Banon's lawyer, David Koubbi, said the prosecutor's findings established that there was substance to his client's claims, allowing him "to escape criminal conviction, but not a legitimate suspicion about his behavior towards women."

Charges in the New York case were dropped in August when prosecutors began to doubt the credibility of his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. Dominique Strauss-Kahn acknowledged "moral fault" in the sexual encounter but insisted that he engaged in no "aggression or constraint" that  could justify his arrest.

The accusations derailed Strauss-Kahn's presidential aspirations. Before he was arrested in New York, he was viewed as a front-runner to try to unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.


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Photo: French journalist Tristane Banon, left, and former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  Credit: Fred Dufour / AFP/Getty Images