Questions about the credibility of the woman who accused former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of a sexual attack have placed the case in jeopardy, a person familiar with the matter said.
Prosecutors in Manhattan plan to tell a New York state court judge today that their investigation raised doubts about the victim’s credibility, said the person, who didn’t want to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Prosecutors disclosed the information to Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, the person said. The New York Times reported the investigators’ findings late yesterday.
“There will be certain disclosures made about the credibility of the witness,” Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, said yesterday in a phone interview. A court hearing scheduled for today will include a request for “substantial modifications” to Strauss-Kahn’s bail conditions, he said.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, is awaiting trial on charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a Manhattan hotel maid on May 14. He pleaded not guilty and is free on bail under security conditions that include electronic monitoring and an armed guard.
The New York Times reported that investigators found the French politician’s accuser had repeatedly lied to prosecutors and had possible links to people involved in criminal activity such as drug dealing and money laundering. The woman spoke to an incarcerated man over the phone within a day of the alleged assault by Strauss-Kahn and discussed with him the possible benefits of pursuing charges against him, the newspaper reported citing two officials it didn’t name.
The former IMF chief is living in a rented townhouse in the Tribeca section of Manhattan, only blocks from the courthouse. Since his release from jail on May 20, he has been allowed to leave home only for legal, medical and religious purposes. He posted $1 million cash bail and a $5 million bond.
Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., didn’t immediately return a call after regular business hours yesterday. Earlier yesterday, she declined to comment other than to say there was a hearing scheduled.
Kenneth P. Thompson, a lawyer representing the woman, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment after regular business hours yesterday. Thibault de Montbrial, a Paris lawyer hired by Thompson to search for other women Strauss-Kahn may have victimized, declined to comment.
Today’s court hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. before New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus. At Strauss- Kahn’s arraignment on June 6, Obus had scheduled the next court hearing for July 18.
Strauss-Kahn is accused of attacking a housekeeper, a 32- year-old from Guinea, at the Midtown Manhattan Sofitel on May 14, grabbing her breasts and trying to pull down her pantyhose, prosecutors have said in court papers. The former IMF chief attempted to rape her and forced her to engage in oral sex, according to the indictment.
In a May 25 letter to the Manhattan district attorney complaining about media leaks in the case, Brafman and co- counsel William Taylor III said that, if they wanted to feed the media frenzy, they could release information that would “gravely undermine the credibility” of the woman.
The prosecutor’s office responded in a letter May 26 saying it was “troubled” by the defense lawyers’ claims they possessed information that might negatively affect the case and the woman’s credibility.
“We are aware of no such information,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon wrote. “If you really do possess the kind of information that you suggest that you do, we trust you will forward it immediately.”
Strauss-Kahn was indicted on seven counts, including criminal sex act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. If convicted of the top charges, he faces as long as 25 years in prison.
Polls had shown Strauss-Kahn as the potential candidate with the best chance of beating French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next May’s general election. Socialist Party hopefuls have until July 13 to register for their primary, which is scheduled for October.
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 2526/11, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County (Manhattan).
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