The head of the International Monetary Fund is scheduled to be arraigned on sexual assault charges Monday -- hours after he was examined for evidence that could incriminate him in the alleged attack on a hotel maid, charges that stunned the global financial world and upended French presidential politics.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a married father of four whose reputation with women earned him the nickname "the great seducer," was arrested Saturday and later charged with attempted rape and criminal sexual contact in the alleged attack on a maid who went into his penthouse suite at a hotel near Times Square to clean it.
Strauss-Kahn spent more than 24 hours inside a Harlem precinct, where police say the maid identified him from a lineup, then headed to a hospital for a "forensic examination" requested by prosecutors to obtain more evidence in the case, defense lawyer William Taylor said. He was taken to a Manhattan court early Monday.
Another defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the IMF managing director "intends to vigorously defends these charges and he denies any wrongdoing."
A member of France's Socialist party, Strauss-Kahn was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political fortunes have been flagging.
Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet lamented the shadow the incident could cast on all of France.
"I'm very surprised to see at what speed in France we rush to political conclusions about a subject that is a serious one. He is accused of very serious acts. We are hardly speaking at all of the alleged victim," she said Monday on Canal-Plus television. In addition to the hotel maid, Koscuisko-Morizet said there is another "clear victim, which is France."
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was nabbed less than four hours after the alleged assault, plucked from first class on a Paris-bound Air France flight that was just about to leave the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
He was alone when he checked into the luxury Sofitel hotel, not far from Times Square, on Friday afternoon, police said. It wasn't clear why he was in New York. The IMF is based in Washington, and he had been due in Germany on Sunday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The 32-year-old maid told authorities that when she entered his $3,000-a-night suite early Saturday afternoon, she thought it was unoccupied. Instead, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her, New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne said.
The woman told police she fought him off, but then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again, escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said.
Strauss-Kahn was gone by the time detectives arrived moments later. He left his cellphone behind. "It looked like he got out of there in a hurry," Browne said.
The NYPD discovered he was at JFK and contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Port Authority police officers arrested him.
The maid was taken by police to a hospital and was treated for minor injuries. Stacy Royal, a spokeswoman for Sofitel, said the hotel's staff was cooperating in the investigation and that the maid "has been a satisfactory employee of the hotel for the past three years."
Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Authorities were looking for any forensic evidence and DNA.
His wife, Anne Sinclair, defended him in a statement to French news agency AFP.
"I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established," said Sinclair, a New York-born journalist who hosted a popular weekly TV news broadcast in France in the 1980s and '90s.
The arrest could throw the long-divided Socialists back into disarray about who they could present as Sarkozy's opponent. Even some of his adversaries were stunned.
"It's totally hallucinating. If it is true, this would be a historic moment, but in the negative sense, for French political life," said Dominique Paille, a political rival to Strauss-Kahn on the center right, on BFM television. Still, he urged, "I hope that everyone respects the presumption of innocence. I cannot manage to believe this affair."
Candidates need to announce their intentions this summer to run in fall primary elections.
"If he's cleared, he could return — but if he is let off only after four or five months, he won't be able to run" because the campaign will be too far along, said Jerome Fourquet of the IFOP polling agency.
"I think his political career is over," Philippe Martinat, who wrote a book called "DSK-Sarkozy: The Duel," told The Associated Press. "Behind him he has other affairs ... I don't see very well how he can pick himself back up."