May 18 (Bloomberg) -- The hotel housekeeper who told police that Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her didn’t know he was chief of the International Monetary Fund and had never met him, a lawyer for the woman said.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, is accused of attacking the woman around noon on May 14 at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan and forcing her to perform sex acts. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer said in court that he denies the charges. The former French finance minister was ordered held without bail as a flight risk.
“She did not know who he was and did not see him before,” Jeffrey Shapiro, the woman’s lawyer, said yesterday in a phone interview.
Shapiro, a personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer at New York’s Jeffrey J. Shapiro & Associates LLC, said he was introduced to the 32-year-old woman by a friend and is offering her counsel. All aspects of the criminal case are being handled by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., he said. Shapiro declined to discuss what happened May 14 and said his client is scheduled to testify before a grand jury this week.
Strauss-Kahn’s next court date is set for May 20. He’s on suicide watch at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex, according to a person familiar with the matter who couldn’t be named because the information isn’t public.
At a court hearing on May 16, Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, made an argument that may suggest the defense will claim the woman consented in the alleged incident.
“The forensic evidence, we believe are not consistent with forcible encounter,” Brafman told Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson. “This is a very, very defensible case.”
Brafman declined to comment on the case.
The woman, who isn’t being identified by authorities or her lawyer because she reported being a victim of a sex crime, is a native of Guinea who has been in the U.S. for seven years, Shapiro said. She has a 15-year-old daughter and, until the attack, lived in the borough of the Bronx in New York City. She speaks English and French. He said she wasn’t giving any press interviews.
“This is a woman who does not have an agenda,” Shapiro said. “She did what she was told to do, which was report this.”
Shapiro said the woman, who picked Strauss-Kahn out of a police lineup, came to the country under difficult circumstances, which he didn’t specify, and supported herself and her daughter. She has worked at the Sofitel for about three years, he said.
“Sofitel’s management reaffirms that its first priority is to ensure the safety of its guests and staff,” Sofitel said in a May 16 statement. The hotel said it has put its managers at the disposal of authorities investigating the incident.
“In the world that she came from, only the rich and powerful have the benefit of the law,” Shapiro said. “She’s very grateful” that wasn’t the case in the U.S., he said.
The alleged attack has disrupted the woman’s life, Shapiro said. She came home May 15 to find dozens of reporters gathered outside, and she hasn’t been back since, the lawyer said. Her daughter has been staying with a friend, he said.
“She’s in the spotlight of this international stage,” Shapiro said. “She fears for her future, she fears for her daughter’s and her own safety.”
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 1225782, Criminal Court of the City of New York (New York County).
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