A lawyer for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former International Monetary Fund chief, said the first findings of his investigation show accusations by a hotel maid that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her are false.
Benjamin Brafman, the lawyer, said he’s “confident” Strauss-Kahn will be acquitted after a trial. Brafman spoke in an interview with France’s national TF1 television from Israel, where he was staying for personal reasons, according to the French broadcaster.
“From what I have seen already in the file, I am confident,” said Brafman, whose comments in English were translated into French for broadcast yesterday. “If he can have a fair trial, at the end of the hearings he will be acquitted. From the investigations we have carried out, I believe the accusations will prove false.”
Strauss-Kahn, 62, is charged in state court in New York with the sexual assault and attempted rape of a hotel housekeeper in Manhattan on May 14. Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as IMF managing director on May 18, was released from the Rikers Island jail complex on May 20 after posting $1 million to the court as part of his bail agreement. He also posted a $5 million bond as a guarantee that he will appear for trial.
In a letter forwarded to IMF staff by Acting Managing Director John Lipsky, Strauss-Kahn said that he is “confident that the truth will come out and I will be exonerated.”
“In the meantime, I cannot accept that the fund -- and you dear colleagues -- should in any way have to share my own personal nightmare. So, I had to go,” Strauss-Kahn wrote in the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney John “Artie” McConnell said in court May 19 that the victim had provided an “unwavering” account of violent sexual assault. He said her account was corroborated by findings in a hospital examination and that preliminary results indicate forensic evidence from the hotel room also may be found.
A grand jury also has heard evidence in the case and voted there was reasonable cause to support the charges in an indictment. “While the investigation still is in its early stages, the proof against him is substantial,” McConnell said. “It is continuing to grow every day.”
The former French finance minister is staying temporarily at a building in Lower Manhattan that includes residential units. Police in front of the building at 71 Broadway confirmed that it was where Strauss-Kahn was confined. Under court order, he isn’t allowed to leave the building except for a medical emergency.
Strauss-Kahn’s current neighborhood comprises the southern tip of Manhattan. It contains City Hall, Wall Street and the site where the World Trade Center stood before it was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The area is also home to police headquarters and state and federal courthouses.
The 71 Broadway building, across from Trinity Church and previously the headquarters of U.S. Steel Corp., has access to the subway in its basement, a small gym and a club room on the upper floors. A police officer stood guard yesterday on the entrance steps under scaffolding.
Strauss-Kahn is staying on the ninth floor, where the hallways are lined with beige wallpaper and green carpet. A guard in a brown suit sat in a chair in front of a stairwell across from his apartment door.
Not the Waldorf
“While the building management is great here, the apartments here are not luxurious by any means,” said Robert Lynde, a tenant at the building who runs his own wine business. “The apartments here are pretty standard. It’s not like you’re staying at the Waldorf. There are more luxurious places in the neighborhood to stay.”
Lynde, 42, who moved to the building in October, said he found out May 21, while getting a cup of coffee from a ground-floor shop, that Strauss-Kahn was staying there. Lynde said he received an e-mail later that morning from the building’s management saying Strauss-Kahn was at the building as a guest of a lessee. According to the e-mail, Strauss-Kahn was expected to be at the building until early this week.
Television cameras and reporters from U.S. and French media were camped across the street from the building, while tourists took photos.
The apartment where Strauss-Kahn originally planned to stay didn’t work out because of the overwhelming media presence at the Upper East Side building, said defense attorney William Taylor, who likened the situation to the throng of reporters that surrounded Bernard Madoff after he was arrested in a Ponzi scheme.
“It was a Madoff kind of circus,” Taylor said. “The building made it known they didn’t want” Strauss-Kahn.
New York state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said Strauss-Kahn, after he moves to more permanent housing, will be able to make arrangements to leave under an escort and with notice for court appearances, meetings with attorneys and religious observances.
In the indictment filed May 19, Strauss-Kahn is charged with criminal sex acts, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. While he has denied the accusations, he hasn’t entered a formal plea to any of the charges. He’s scheduled to be arraigned June 6.
At the Sofitel hotel in Midtown Manhattan, he allegedly closed the door of the room to keep the woman from leaving, grabbed her breasts and tried to pull down her pantyhose, according to court papers. He also forced her to perform oral sex, prosecutors said. The maid escaped and later picked Strauss-Kahn out of a lineup, police said.
French women’s groups last week criticized what they say is the lack of attention the hotel maid was getting from politicians and the country’s media. They said the torrent of reaction all but ignored the woman because of a so-called code of silence when it comes to the alleged victims of powerful men such as Strauss-Kahn.
“The maid is invisible and the IMF chief gets the support,” Clementine Autain, who was raped at the age of 23 and co-founded Paris-based feminist group Mix-Cite, wrote on her blog.
More than half of French people think that Strauss-Kahn is the victim of a conspiracy, according to a CSA telephone opinion poll conducted on May 16.
“People in France must know my client is in good spirits and that he wants to defend himself vigorously and that he is very well-advised by his lawyers who are determined to prove his innocence and restore his honor,” Brafman said in the television interview.
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 2526/11, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County (Manhattan).