Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was acquitted on June 12, 2015 of "aggravated procurement" (or “aggravated pimping”) by the criminal court in Lille, France. He was facing up to 10 years life imprisonment and a 1.5 million euros fine for his alleged role in a French prostitution ring.
Conforming with the prosecutor’s recommendations to drop the charges and to acquit him, Judge Bernard Lemaire held that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was only behaving as a customer, which is not illegal under French criminal law, and that there was no evidence he was an instigator of the parties.
The results were similar for the thirteen other defendants, among whom were several businessmen, a lawyer, a former chief police, and a notorious owner of an escort bar. They were all acquitted but René Kojfer, former head of public relations at the Carlton Hotel, who was convicted to a one-year suspended prison sentence for procuring, but not aggravated.
Although this ruling puts an end to a three year case, the wide media coverage and the fame of some defendants brought to light several legal issues raised by the unusual facts of the story.
Indeed, the trial turned into a vast debate on ethics and morals in France, and more specifically on prostitution and prosecution of sexual offenses. Defense lawyers have been expressing that the current offenses are outdated, while victims representatives also seem to think the laws are incomplete. This case has allowed to reopen public discussions on these matters, and especially showed how the offense of procurement is not well defined and needs to be edited.
Coincidentally, the ruling took place on the same day that the French Parliament was debating a bill intended to reinforce the fight against prostitution, suggesting on the one hand to criminalize promoting by setting a fine of 1,500 euros for clients, but on the other hand to decriminalize soliciting by removing a 2003 offense. The bill has been shuttling between the two houses of Parliament since 2013, and if it was approved by one house, it is likely to be rejected for the second time by the other one.
The author of this post, Camille Brusley, is a French law school graduate currently working as a legal intern for Galluzzo & Arnone LLP in New York. Matthew Galluzzo is a French-speaking attorney at that firm and routinely represents French citizens accused of crimes in New York.