Strauss-Kahn Discussed Settling Suit, His Lawyers Say
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has discussed resolving a lawsuit brought by a hotel maid who accused him of attempted rape and may have a deal in a few days, his lawyers said.
One of the lawyers, William Taylor III, hopes to sign an agreement to end the lawsuit in a few days, his spokeswoman Marina Ein said today in an e-mail. The two sides have “discussed a resolution but there has been no settlement,” Taylor and Amit Mehta, attorneys with Zuckerman Spaeder LLP in Washington, said earlier today in a statement. Reports that Strauss-Kahn may pay $6 million to resolve the suit are “flatly false,” they said.
The two sides have been meeting with New York State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon in the Bronx in an effort to resolve the case, and the parties are expected to be in court next week, David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the New York State Unified Court System, said in a telephone interview.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Strauss-Kahn has agreed to settle, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter.
Strauss-Kahn may pay a $6 million settlement, borrowing $3 million from his wife, Anne Sinclair, and the rest from a bank, to the French daily Le Monde reported today, citing unidentified people close to the former IMF chief. Strauss-Kahn and Sinclair, the editor of the French version of the Huffington Post, separated this year.
A $6 million settlement would be “truly astounding,” said Paul Callan of Callan Koster Brady & Brennan LLP in New York, a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office who represented Nicole Brown Simpson’s estate in a civil case against former pro football star O.J. Simpson.
A civil jury found Simpson liable for the deaths of Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman after another jury acquitted him of murder in the criminal case.
“I’m highly skeptical that a number of that magnitude was negotiated,” Callan said in a telephone interview. “It’s possible, but if that’s the number it’s an extraordinarily good result” for the plaintiff.
It’s possible that a settlement amount reported in the press could hamper negotiations, said Stuart Slotnick, a criminal defense lawyer with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in New York.
“If, for example, it’s true that Strauss-Kahn was to pay a significant amount of money but wanted to keep that confidential and somehow a large number was leaked into the public domain, he may react emotionally and say ‘I thought this was going to be confidential and forget it, I’m not interested in paying a large sum’ because confidentiality was breached by someone,” Slotnick said in a telephone interview.
Douglas Wigdor, an attorney in New York representing the plaintiff, Nafissatou Diallo, and a partner of Thompson, declined to comment on both the New York Times story and the Le Monde report in an e-mail. Thompson didn’t respond to e-mail and telephone messages seeking comment on the report.
Strauss-Kahn “vigorously denies the fantastical and erroneous information in Le Monde,” his French lawyers Frederique Baulieu, Richard Malka and Henri Leclerc said today in an e-mail. They didn’t elaborate on what information was incorrect and declined to comment on the U.S. case.
Diallo sued Strauss-Kahn in the Bronx in August 2011, weeks before Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. dropped criminal charges against the former IMF chief after concluding Diallo had lied about events surrounding the alleged attack.
The settlement agreement was facilitated by McKeon along with a separate agreement to end another lawsuit filed by Diallo against the New York Post over stories that said she was a prostitute, the Associated Press reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Post has no comment on the AP story, Suzanne Halpin of Rubenstein Communications, a spokeswoman for the News Corp.- owned newspaper, said in a telephone interview.
The lawsuit is a “classic case” for a negotiated settlement, as Strauss-Kahn was facing the prospect of having to return to the U.S. and testifying under oath, Callan said.
“Statistically 90 percent of civil cases are settled ultimately,” Callan said. “This case there was an even higher probability of settlement because of the high-profile nature of the case and specifically because of Strauss-Kahn’s high profile in France. Even if there was no merit to the case whatsoever the potential embarrassment for Strauss-Kahn would have been so great that there would be pressure on him to settle.”
Strauss-Kahn may have decided not to fight the suit because of fear that he wouldn’t win in the Bronx, where juries are known for being friendly to plaintiffs in civil cases, Slotnick said.
“Obviously he fought the criminal case hard because he didn’t want to go to jail,” Slotnick said. “This case, if it wasn’t settled, was destined for a trial and Strauss-Kahn may have felt that he would not be believed by a Bronx jury.”
McKeon in May denied a motion by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Strauss-Kahn subsequently filed a counterclaim against the maid seeking more than $1 million in damages.
Before his arrest, polls showed Strauss-Kahn as the Socialist Party politician best placed to defeat then-president Nicolas Sarkozy. Eventual Socialist nominee Francois Hollande defeated Sarkozy in May this year.
Strauss-Kahn became managing director of the IMF in November 2007 after Segolene Royal beat him to become the Socialist Party’s presidential candidate. He was French finance minister from 1997 to 1999. Strauss-Kahn, who holds a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Paris, worked as a corporate lawyer from 1993 to 1997.
Prosecutors in Lille in northern France last month dropped an inquiry into allegations that Strauss-Kahn and other men raped a prostitute in Washington in December 2010 after the woman wrote to them to say she wouldn’t file a criminal complaint.
The inquiry was an offshoot of the so-called Carlton affair, an investigation into claims about a prostitution ring linked to a hotel by the same name in Lille. Strauss-Kahn was charged with procurement in that case and has appealed -- along with others accused in the matter -- to end the investigation.
An appeals court in Douai is scheduled to announce on Dec. 19 whether the probe should be dropped, curtailed or continued.
The timing of a settlement would be “perfect for this type of a case,” Callan said.
“The parties fight it out over motions to dismiss and then they face the reality of testifying under oath and depositions and it’s at that point that settlements are negotiated,” Callan said. “Strauss-Kahn was facing coming back to the United States, testifying under oath and recreating in the public eye all of the embarrassment surrounding the case. He avoids all of that by a settlement.”
The civil case is Diallo v. Strauss-Kahn, 11-307065, New York State Supreme Court (Bronx County).