The hotel maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the ex-International Monetary Fund managing director now charged with sexual assault and attempted rape, hired additional legal counsel in anticipation of an attack on her reputation and credibility, her lawyer said.
Attorney Norman Siegel, former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson, who prosecuted New York City police officers for the beating and torture of Abner Louima, have begun to work on behalf of the 32-year-old hotel maid from Guinea, according to Jeffrey Shapiro, who has been representing her.
“We anticipate the defense in this case is going to mount some sort of an assault on her,” Shapiro, a New York personal-injury lawyer, said yesterday in a phone interview. “It requires a team effort” to protect her, he said.
In a May 25 letter to the Manhattan district attorney complaining about media leaks in the case, defense attorneys Benjamin Brafman and 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.
In a letter yesterday, the prosecutor’s office responded that it also was concerned about the leaks -- and “troubled” by the defense lawyers’ claims that they possessed information that might negatively affect the case and the woman’s credibility.
‘No Such Information’
“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.”
Brafman and Taylor didn’t respond to calls or e-mails seeking comment. Siegel and Thompson also didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment. Shapiro said a civil lawsuit had not been discussed.
The woman is doing well, Shapiro said.
“She’s very strong,” he said. “She’s with her daughter. She’s happy to be done with testifying to the grand jury. She’s going to be OK.”
The grand jury handed down an indictment against Strauss-Kahn after the woman testified last week.
The woman has a 15-year-old daughter, and until the incident, lived in the New York borough of the Bronx, according to Shapiro.
“She has not been able to go back to work,” he said. “The hotel has continued to pay her, but that is not a long-term solution. That’s an interim solution.”
No one else is providing her with support and her financial resources for the long term must be dealt with, he said.
Shapiro said he had no knowledge that anyone had approached her family in Guinea with offers of money to make the case go away, as the New York Post reported.
Taylor, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, said May 25 that reports that defense attorneys or other representatives have been in contact with the woman or her family are false.
In the May 25 letter to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Taylor and Brafman said that their client’s right to a fair trial was compromised by prejudicial information leaked to news media by New York Police Department sources.
They cited news reports on alleged DNA evidence and a “step-by-step narrative” from a police spokesman of how the victim claims the criminal acts occurred.
“This information has now been recklessly injected into the public arena with the potential of permanently prejudicing potential jurors who are being exposed to these materials on a daily basis,” the lawyers said in the letter. A copy was sent to state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus, who is presiding over the case.
The lawyers asked that they be provided with copies of all scientific reports that have been completed and leaked, as well as other evidence. They requested that efforts be made to prevent further leaks.
In yesterday’s letter responding to the defense complaints, Illuzzi-Orbon said it was in the interest of both sides to discourage “to the greatest degree possible” leaks of non-public information, and that prosecutors would continue to do so.
The other information requested by the defense would be addressed pursuant to normal trial procedures, she said.
Illuzzi-Orbon, who was appointed last year as chief of the office’s new hate crimes unit, is one of two new prosecutors assigned to the sexual assault case, according to a person familiar with the matter.
New to Case
Assistant District Attorney Ann Prunty also is working on the case, said the person, who didn’t want to be identified because staffing decisions aren’t public.
“It’s a serious case. It’s also a press case,” said New York defense attorney Thomas Curran, a former Manhattan prosecutor. “The DA’s office is going to bring whatever assets it has to bear on that case. And having people like Joan and Ann available is the envy of any prosecutor’s office.”
Erin Duggan, chief spokeswoman for the district attorney, declined to comment on staffing.
Karen Friedman Agnifilo, chief of the trial division at the district attorney’s office, recused herself from the case. Her husband, Marc Agnifilo, is a lawyer with Brafman & Associates and has been working on Strauss-Kahn’s defense.
Brafman’s clients have included pop star Michael Jackson, Gambino crime family underboss Salvatore “Sammy Bull” Gravano, rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs, and former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance minister, was released from Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex, on May 20. Among the terms his release are $1 million bail, a $5 million bond and security measures that include electronic monitoring and cost an estimated $200,000 a month.
Strauss-Kahn was housed temporarily in Lower Manhattan after arrangements on the Upper East Side fell through because of news media attention. He moved last night to Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, near the courthouse where he is to go on trial.
According to a sales listing for the 153 Franklin St. building on the StreetEasy real estate website, the property is a 6,804-square-foot townhouse. The four-bedroom unit, which was on the market for almost $14 million, includes a roof deck and garage, according to the listing.
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 1225782, Criminal Court of the City of New York. New York County (Manhattan).