Dominique Strauss-Kahn, before the scandal broke, was one of the world's most prominent public figures, steering the International Monetary Fund through the global financial crisis and a likely heir to the French presidency.
He was then paraded before the world's cameras handcuffed, unshaven and disheveled at his initial hearing when he shared court time with petty criminals.
Not only was he forced to quit the IMF, but he also had to abandon what had been expected to be a successful challenge to French President Nicolas Sarkozy in upcoming elections.
The 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn, once clear of criminal charges of sex assault, would then be free to return to France, where his May 14 arrest in New York caused a political uproar.
His return would also mark the culmination of a tough fight put up by the super-wealthy Frenchman's legal team against the illiterate Guinean housemaid who has accused him of sexual assault.
Though he has long battled claims of dalliances with other women, Strauss-Kahn has repeatedly denied the allegations by Nafissatou Diallo.
Claims about Strauss-Kahn's private life had always lurked in the background, and his New York arrest sparked a public sleaze scandal that has all but destroyed his hopes for the 2012 French presidency after a failed bid for the Socialist candidacy in 2006.
A gifted orator, fluent in English and German, the silver-haired Strauss-Kahn is married to Anne Sinclair, one of France's most popular television journalists. She remained by his side in court.
The former economics professor won respect in Europe as France's finance minister from 1997 to 1999.
During that time, he took part in negotiations to create the single European currency, the euro, and generated a wave of privatizations, including that of France Telecom, overcoming resistance within Socialist ranks.
He had presented himself as the reform candidate for the 187-country IMF, based in Washington, when he took the helm of the global lender in 2007, promising to be "a consensus builder."
But the Frenchman's candidacy had stirred controversy in Europe, and he has had several run-ins with scandal.
In 2008, he was discovered to be having an affair with a Hungarian IMF economist. The IMF's investigation concluded he had not exerted pressure on the woman, but said he had made an error of judgment.
Born to a Jewish family in the rich Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine on April 25, 1949, Strauss-Kahn spent part of his childhood in Morocco and later studied at the elite Paris political school Sciences-Po and the top business school HEC.
He entered politics in 1986, winning a parliament seat to represent the alpine Haute-Savoie region, and was later re-elected in the Paris region of Val d'Oise in 1988.
Named finance minister in 1997, Strauss-Kahn was forced to step down two years later because of allegations that he had received payment from a student health insurance fund for legal work he did not perform.
He was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2001.