Ex-IMF chief Strauss-Kahn acquitted
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been cleared of pimping charges in a French trial.
The verdict closes four years of legal drama that hinged on sex parties that took place in the midst of the global financial crisis.
Ten others were also acquitted.
Mr Strauss-Kahn had told the court the parties were "recreational sessions" and he did not know the women who took part were prostitutes.
In often sordid testimony, the women described sometimes brutal get-togethers.
Allegations against Mr Strauss-Kahn started when a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011. That case was settled out of court.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, 66, was among more than a dozen defendants, including hotel managers, entrepreneurs, a lawyer and a police chief. They were accused of participating in or organising collective sexual encounters in Paris, Washington and in the Brussels region in 2008-2011, when Strauss-Kahn was IMF chief - and married. Only one, a hotel manager, was convicted in the pimping case.
Each faced up to 10 years in prison and 1.5 million US dollars in fines if convicted.
During the three-week trial in February, the man known in France as DSK never wavered in his insistence that he did not know that the young women at the parties were prostitutes. He said he thought they were simply "libertine".
The sometimes tearful testimony of two prostitutes cast a harsh light on Strauss-Kahn's sexual practices. But they testified that they had never told him directly about their professions.
Other defendants described how they had voluntarily erected a wall of silence around their powerful friend to protect him from embarrassment.
Even the prosecutor, unusually, asked for Mr Strauss-Kahn's acquittal, saying the trial in Lille did not back up the charge of aggravated pimping, which requires proof that he promoted or profited from prostitution.
However, the prosecutor asked for conviction of the co-defendants who admitted having organised these evenings and paid the girls.
"All that for this?" Mr Strauss-Kahn said as he rose to leave the courtroom with his girlfriend and adult daughter. "What a waste."
"We knew that the contradictory and public debate would show the total emptiness of this case," said Henri Leclerc, one of his lawyers.