PARIS — Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund director whose promising political career in France was destroyed by sex scandals, was cleared Tuesday of charges that he participated in the gang rape of a prostitute in a Washington hotel.
The decision, announced by a French prosecutor in the northern city of Lille, constituted a rare piece of good news for Strauss-Kahn, 63, who had been considered a leading candidate to become president of France until he was arrested in New York in May 2011 on an accusation that he had sexually assaulted a housekeeper in a Manhattan hotel.
The New York charges were dropped when prosecutors there discovered that his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, had lied about other matters. But she followed up with a multimillion-dollar civil suit, filed last year in the Bronx. As part of the maneuvering, Strauss-Kahn’s legal team filed a $1 million countersuit, alleging damage to his reputation based on false charges.
Since the spectacular arrest in New York, Strauss-Kahn has been ostracized in French politics, reduced to giving economics lectures in foreign cities. His wife, a former television personality, has ejected him from their spacious apartment in a stylish Paris square, and he has been accused — in court and in sulfurous dinner party gossip — of long leading a double life as a sexual predator.
Despite the dismissal of gang rape charges, Strauss-Kahn still faces charges in Lille of participating in the procurement of prostitutes, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. His attorneys have attacked the charges on procedural grounds, and the prosecutor has scheduled a decision on their objections for Nov. 28.
Strauss-Kahn has not denied he took part in sex parties in Lille, Washington and Paris. But he has maintained from the beginning that he did not know the women involved were prostitutes, saying he believed they had traveled to various cities and made themselves available because they found it enjoyable.
The gang rape charges stemmed from accusations by one of the prostitutes who traveled to Washington. She told police that she was held by her feet and hands while Strauss-Kahn sodomized her in a room at the W Hotel in the District. Her cries to stop went unheeded, police said she told them.
But the prosecutor’s office, in its announcement, said she did not lodge a formal complaint during her interrogation and later sent a letter to the prosecutor saying she had consented to paid sex with Strauss-Kahn and did not intend to make a legal complaint against him.
The prosecutor’s office said the charges were dropped because without a complaint, “the crime of rape was not constituted.”
Strauss-Kahn had no immediate reaction. But Henri Leclerc, one of his Paris attorneys, said in a statement after the announcement in Lille that he expected all along that the gang rape charges would be abandoned.
“I was convinced there was not even any reason to carry out an investigation,” he added, “and that inevitably the investigation would one day or another be dropped, even if it had led to a great scandal in the media that was based on nothing.”