Scandal-plagued Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund who was once seen as a frontrunner to become president of France, was charged on Friday for “aggravated pimping as part of a group.”
The charge caps the media-dubbed “Carlton Affair” that has dragged on since last year, when authorities announced they were investigating Strauss-Kahn for participating in a prostitution ring at luxury hotels he frequented in the northern French city of Lille. “No offence has been found to exist. So there can be no conviction in this affair,” Frederique Baulieu, one of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, told France’s BFM TV. “We should be focused on the law, not morality.”
Strauss-Kahn, who quit his post at the IMF in 2011 after a New York City hotel maid accused him of rape in charges that were later dropped, has acknowledged attending sex parties in Lille but says he was unaware that the women who participated were prostitutes. In February 2012, when Strauss-Kahn was arrested and questioned for his role in the prostitution ring, his then lawyer Henri Leclerk offered an unorthodox defense. “He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed,” Leclerk said. “I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman.”
The allegations were investigated by a panel of judges who recommended today that Strauss-Kahn be charged and tried for aggravated pimping. So what is aggravated pimping?
In France, prostitution is legal, but earning money from another person prostituting him or herself—“pimping”—is not. That charge is punishable by seven years in prison and 150,000 Euro fine.
What about the “aggravated” part of it? “Aggravated pimping” describes pimping with aggravating circumstances. Under the French penal code, those include prostituting a minor, involving a weapon, and—potential factors in Strauss-Kahn’s charge—using more than one prostitute and working with a group. “Aggravated pimping” is punishable by ten years in prison and 1.5 million Euro fine. Strauss-Kahn was originally under investigation for “aggravated pimping as part of an organized gang,” which can draw 20 years in prison, but the charges announced Friday are less severe.
Similar laws exist across the United States, crime law blogger Stephanie Rabiner reported last year. In Texas, aggravated promotion of prostitution, a felony of the third degree, involves pimping with two or more prostitutes and is punishable with up to 10 years in prison. In Maine, the charge includes forcing someone into prostitution and can carry the same sentence.
Unlike almost everywhere in America, however, prostitution itself is legal in France.
“The defense’s line is simple: there is no fact that deserves legal prosecution,” Me Malka, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, told the French newspaper L’Express. “Or else, you must criminalize all the clients of prostitutes.”