Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn walked out of court free on bail Friday after prosecutors said an extensive background investigation of the hotel housekeeper accusing him of sexual assault gave them pause.
Strauss-Kahn had been under pricey house arrest for weeks in a ritzy Manhattan loft on $6 million in cash and bond. The charges, which include attempted rape, have not been reduced, but the move signals that prosecutors do not believe the accusations are as ironclad as they once seemed.
The 32-year-old hotel maid accused Strauss-Kahn of chasing her through his luxury suite in May, trying to pull down her pantyhose and forcing her to perform oral sex.
"It is a great relief," said Strauss-Kahn's attorney, William Taylor, adding that the case underscores "how easy it is for people to be charged with serious crimes and for there to be a rush to judgment."
"It is so important in this country that people, especially the media, refrain from judgment until the facts are all in," he said.
The accuser's attorney did not back down on the seriousness of the charges.
"From Day One she has described a violent sexual assault that Dominique Strauss-Kahn committed against her," attorney Ken Thompson said.
"She has described that sexual assault many times, to prosecutors and to me, and she has never once changed a single thing about that encounter," he said.
He referred to media reports that his client was involved with a drug dealer, calling them lies.
Strauss-Kahn arrived at the courthouse Friday morning in a Lexus SUV and strode confidently up the granite steps with his wife, French journalist Anne Sinclair, at his side. He wore a dark gray suit, and she a white jacket.
After the hearing, he walked slowly out of the courthouse with his arm on her shoulder, smiling slightly at the throng gathered outside.
His passport remained surrendered, and he will not yet be allowed to leave the country. His other attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said Strauss-Kahn would be free to travel within the United States.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York City and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.