Strauss-Kahn Prosecution, Investigation of Accuser to Continue, Vance Says
The sexual-assault case against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn will be pursued along with an investigation of false statements by his accuser that have “raised concerns,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, accused of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a hotel maid in New York on May 14, was freed from home confinement yesterday while awaiting trial after prosecutors said the case was hurt by his accuser’s “substantial credibility issues.” While prosecutors will keep Strauss-Kahn’s travel documents, his bail was ordered returned and he will be allowed to travel throughout the U.S.
According to a letter dated June 30 and filed in court yesterday by prosecutors, the 32-year-old housekeeper from Guinea lied to a grand jury about her actions right after the alleged attack, as well as on her tax returns and in an application for asylum.
Vance said his office’s investigation “raised concerns about the complaining witness’s credibility” and that defense lawyers were given “information that gave rise to those concerns.
“Because our request for substantial bail was based in part on our assessment of the strength of our case at the time of the indictment, we disclosed this information to the court,” he said.
Strauss-Kahn had posted $1 million cash bail and a $5 million bond and, until yesterday, was subject to security conditions that included electronic monitoring and around-the- clock armed guard. After his release from jail on May 20, he was allowed to leave home only for legal, medical and religious purposes.
His next court hearing is scheduled for July 18. “The case is not over,” New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus told Strauss-Kahn.
The former IMF managing director, who has pleaded not guilty, left the courthouse in downtown Manhattan after the hearing, walking through a throng of cameras before getting into a Lexus sport-utility vehicle.
Prosecutors have been conducting a comprehensive investigation of all aspects of the case, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the judge, including the background of the housekeeper and reviews of additional subpoenaed records.
At the time of the alleged attack, Illuzzi-Orbon said “we were faced with a credible claim about a serious sexual assault by a civilian witness who made prompt outcry to third parties and had a solid work history with her employer. The fact of a sexual encounter was and is corroborated by forensic evidence. The very brief time period inside the hotel suite strongly suggests something other than a consensual act.”
The investigation “caused us to reassess” the strength of the case, which has been affected by “the substantial credibility issues” of the woman, she said.
Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, said after the hearing that he thought all of the charges will eventually be dismissed.
“We believed from the beginning that this case was not what it appeared to be,” he said.
Kenneth Thompson, lawyer for the alleged victim, told reporters that medical and forensic evidence supports the woman’s account of the assault. He said that evidence includes hospital photos of a vaginal bruise that the woman suffered when Strauss-Kahn grabbed her. The forensic evidence is consistent with the woman’s account that she spit out semen as she fled the room, Thompson said.
The housekeeper entered his room to clean it, and Strauss- Kahn “violently attacked” her, Thompson said.
“The only defense that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has is that this sexual encounter was consensual,” Thompson said. “That is a lie.”
According to the June 30 letter, the woman told the grand jury that after the assault in suite 2806 of the Sofitel in Manhattan, she fled to an area of the main hallway of the hotel’s 28th floor and waited until she saw Strauss-Kahn leave the suite.
She said she then reported the incident to her supervisor, who arrived a short time later, according to the letter, which was sent by Vance’s office to defense attorneys.
“The complainant has since admitted that this account was false and that after the incident in suite 2806 she proceeded to clean a nearby room and then returned to suite 2806 and began to clean that suite before she reported the incident to her supervisor,” according to the letter.
The woman admitted to other lies, according to the letter. She said that for the past two years, she declared a friend’s child in addition to her own as a dependent on her tax returns in order to increase her refund. She also said she misrepresented her income in order to maintain her housing, prosecutors said in the letter.
According to the letter, the woman admitted she lied in her application for asylum when she stated that she and her husband had been persecuted and harassed by the dictatorial regime then in power in Guinea. She said her house was burned and her husband died while incarcerated.
She later said she fabricated the statement with the assistance of a man who provided her with a cassette recording of the facts contained in the statement that she eventually submitted, prosecutors said in the letter.
In interviews with prosecutors, the woman said she had been gang raped in her native country. In subsequent interviews, “she admitted that the gang rape had never occurred,” according to the letter.
The letter didn’t detail everything questionable that turned up in the investigation, said a person familiar with the matter who declined to be identified because the probe is ongoing. From $50,000 to $100,000 was deposited from at least two states, Arizona and Georgia, in a bank account in the woman’s name, the person said.
The housekeeper claimed the deposits were the result of someone else using her account without her permission, the person said. That other person was a friend who is in jail in Arizona for having possessed 100 pounds of marijuana, according to the person familiar with the matter.
The woman talked to the friend in jail in Arizona by phone within a day of the incident, said another person familiar with the matter.
She told the friend, “Don’t worry. This guy has money. I know what I’m doing,” according to the person, who didn’t want to be identified because the information isn’t public.
Thompson, the woman’s lawyer, said Vance may be “too afraid to try this case. We believe that he’s afraid he’s going to lose this high-profile case.”
Strauss-Kahn has been staying in a rented townhouse in the Tribeca section of Manhattan, only blocks from the courthouse. He returned to the townhouse after yesterday’s hearing.
Sean Hershkowitz, 26, a deliveryman for Balloon Saloon in Tribeca, delivered a group of balloons, including one of the Statue of Liberty, to Strauss-Kahn’s townhouse. Hershkowitz said he tried to deliver balloons -- including one in the shape of a shark -- shortly after Strauss-Kahn began living there, but the delivery was refused.
Hershkowitz said the balloons, which cost about $50, were accompanied by a card that stated, “enjoy your freedom on Independence Day.” He said he didn’t know who sent the balloons.
Strauss-Kahn and his wife, Anne Sinclair, have lived in Washington since November 2007, when he was named managing director of the IMF, according to court filings. A copy of a deed in Sinclair’s name to a home in the Georgetown area of Washington that was bought in 2007 for $4 million was included in court filings.
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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