Strauss-Kahn Faces Lawsuit, French Probe After Charges Dismissed
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief who won dismissal of sexual- assault charges in New York, still faces a lawsuit by his accuser and remains the subject of a French rape investigation.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus yesterday granted Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s request to dismiss the indictment against Strauss-Kahn, 62. Obus also rejected the accuser’s bid for a special prosecutor in the case, a decision that an appeals court refused to reverse.
Vance’s office sought to dismiss the case after concluding that the housekeeper who accused Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her and forcing her to have oral sex had lied about events surrounding the alleged May 14 attack at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan, as well as about key details of her life.
“I can’t wait to go back to my country, but I still have a few things to do before going,” Strauss-Kahn, speaking in French, told reporters yesterday outside the Lower Manhattan townhouse where he has been staying. He said that he’s “relieved” for his wife, his children, his friends and the people who supported him. “I will talk more when I get back to France.”
Benjamin Brafman, one of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, said yesterday in an e-mail that he expects his client’s travel documents to be returned today. Brafman didn’t respond to an e- mail today about the status of those documents. The district attorney’s office said it expects Strauss-Kahn’s passport to be returned today.
“Unless you have been falsely accused of a very serious crime that you did not commit, it is impossible for you to understand or grasp the full measure of relief that Dominique Strauss-Kahn feels,” Brafman said yesterday. “This was not a forcible encounter. You can engage in inappropriate behavior perhaps, but that is much different than a crime and this case was treated as a crime when it was not.”
Investigators in France are probing allegations that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape French writer Tristane Banon eight years ago, a claim he has denied.
Banon filed a criminal complaint against Strauss-Kahn in July, saying he assaulted her in February 2003 when she went to interview him for a book. Strauss-Kahn, France’s former finance minister, has filed a complaint with Paris prosecutors accusing Banon of slander.
Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel housekeeper, will pursue a lawsuit in which she accuses Strauss-Kahn of “deplorable acts,” according to her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson.
Thompson accused Vance of failing to uphold the standard of equal justice under the law in a case in which the accuser was an immigrant from Guinea.
“If Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a construction worker from Harlem, do you really believe that District Attorney Cyrus Vance would turn his back on a seven-count indictment that a grand jury returned based on the evidence that he presented?” Thompson said to reporters after yesterday’s court hearing.
“Women who are raped and sexually assaulted should not have to go through some test to show that they lived a perfect life,” Thompson said. “The standard shouldn’t be whether they lived a pristine life or whether they came to the United States on the Mayflower.”
The dismissal came about three months after Strauss-Kahn, once a potential French presidential candidate, was pulled off a flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 14 and arrested.
The experience has been “a nightmare for me and my family,” Strauss-Kahn said in an English-language statement after Obus ruled. “We are obviously gratified that the district attorney agreed with my lawyers that this case had to be dismissed. We appreciate his professionalism and that of the people who were involved in that decision.”
Strauss-Kahn may take legal action against Diallo, Brafman said in an e-mail.
“We will consider whether to file appropriate counter- claims if civil litigation continues,” he said. In a CNN interview that included fellow Straus-Kahn lawyer William Taylor III, Brafman said the former IMF chief isn’t bitter.
“I think he regrets this incident with all of his heart,” Brafman said. “We view her as either evil or pathetic or both,” he said of Diallo.
Taylor, in the CNN interview, called Diallo an “accomplished actress.”
“She doesn’t have much of a chance in a civil case,” Taylor said. “We’re not worried about a civil case.”
Impossible to Pursue
Diallo told police that Strauss-Kahn attacked her when she went to clean his suite at the Sofitel. During the investigation, Diallo, 33, admitted to lying about the circumstances of the incident and other matters. Prosecutors said those lies made it impossible to pursue the case.
“The complainant was untruthful with us in nearly every substantive interview,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court yesterday. “She was untruthful about matters great and small in significance.”
Vance said later in a statement that his office wasn’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed.
“The crimes charged in the indictment required the People to prove that Strauss-Kahn engaged in a sexual encounter using force and without the complainant’s consent,” Vance said in the statement. “Proof of these two critical elements -- force and lack of consent -- rests solely on the complaining witness’ testimony. But her testimony was fatally damaged.”
Evidence collected by New York investigators established that Strauss-Kahn engaged in “a hurried sexual encounter” with the maid, “but it does not independently establish her claim of a forcible, nonconsensual encounter,” prosecutors said in an Aug. 22 court filing requesting the dismissal.
Prosecutors said Diallo gave three different accounts of what happened immediately after the encounter at the Sofitel, and admitted to lying to the grand jury, something defense lawyers could have used against her at a criminal trial. Prosecutors said she told investigators a fictitious tale, “with great emotion and conviction,” about how she was gang- raped by soldiers in Guinea.
“In a case where a complainant is accusing a defendant of a sexual assault, the fact that she has given a prior false account of a different sexual assault is highly relevant,” prosecutors said.
They said Diallo also repeatedly asserted that she wouldn’t try to make money off of the case, only to sue Strauss-Kahn this month. She failed to disclose $60,000 in cash deposits made into her checking account by individuals in four different states, and she lied about her job to obtain low-income housing, prosecutors said.
“If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, we cannot ask a jury to do so,” prosecutors said.
Robert Morgenthau, a Manhattan district attorney for 34 years and now of counsel at the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York, said in a statement that although he hasn’t reviewed the case, he believed Vance and his staff conducted their investigation “in accordance with established procedure.”
“They are not afraid of making tough or unpopular decisions,” said Morgenthau, 92. “If they have determined that the prosecution cannot win the case, their judgment not to go forward is not only wise, as a matter of policy, but required under the relevant rules as a matter of prosecutorial ethics.”
Strauss-Kahn was a leading contender to run for president of France before his arrest. Other Socialist candidates for his party’s nomination said it was for him to decide whether to return to politics.
“I would like to leave it to him to express his views” on his political future, Martine Aubry, a candidate for the Socialist presidential nomination, said yesterday on France Info.
“He is not a candidate in the upcoming presidential election, but I can’t see how the country could do without his competence,” Jean-Marie Le Guen, a French lawmaker and Strauss- Kahn ally, told France Info. “I think that those who can count on Strauss-Kahn’s support will have a top card to play.”
Strauss-Kahn, who resigned his post as the IMF’s managing director on May 18, was confined to a Lower Manhattan townhouse before bail requirements were dropped as the prosecution began to unravel. Brafman, his lawyer, declined to discuss Strauss- Kahn’s plans after yesterday’s dismissal of the criminal case.
“There is a measure of privacy that Dominique and his wife would like restored to the personal family, so we’re not going to discuss what his plans are now,” Brafman said.
The criminal case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 11-02526, New York State Supreme Court (New York County); the civil case is Diallo v. Strauss-Kahn, 11-307065, New York State Supreme Court (Bronx County).
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