French politician and former IMF chief, DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn) walked free from New York court yesterday, after charges against him for alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid have been dropped.
Yesterday, Cyrus Vance Jr., Manhattan’s district attorney told justice in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan that prosecutors could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt because of serious credibility issues with Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel hotel’s housekeeper who had accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), of sexually assaulting her.
[googlead tip=”patrat_mediu” ]Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the assistant district attorney, called Nafissatou Diallo’s testimony “surreal” and said the accuser lied to prosecutors on several occasions, even denying she had made declarations previously witnessed by several law officials.
Judge Michael Obus told the court he would comply with a request from the prosecution to throw out the case:
“The indictment is dismissed.”
Hotel maid’s lawyers appealed against the judge’s decision not to appoint a special prosecutor. That appeal was quickly dismissed.
After the judge decision, DSK‘s lawyers attacked the fact that the case had gone so far.
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Benjamin Brafman said: “This was not a forcible encounter … This case was treated as a crime when it was not.”
Lawyer Benjamin Brafman also spoke of the toll the process had taken on the accused. He called it a “horrific nightmare” and said Strauss-Kahn and his family had handled the ordeal with “class”.
Another DSK’s lawyer, William Taylor, attacked Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s treatment by the US justice system and the media.
“What a tragedy in the life of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. This is not about wealth, nor power, nor race … There was a collective rush to judgment by not only law enforcement but also by the media,” said William Taylor.
Outside court large groups of protesters were gathered, most of them being against DSK, waving placards and chanting slogans such as “DSK! Shame on you!”
At the moment DSK left the building, one woman screamed at him: “You dirty bastard! You dirty bastard!”
Ken Thompson, Diallo’s lawyer told press outside court:
“No man, no matter how much power, money and influence he has, has a right to sexually assault a woman,” Thompson said. “We are disappointed that District Attorney Vance apparently does not believe in equal justice under the law and has denied an innocent woman a day in court.”
Michael Greys, co-founder of the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, was furious at the dismissal.
“American justice is not blind. Race and class still play a part. This was a case of a millionaire against a poor black woman with no education.”
DSK, 62 year-old former IMF chief, was arrested last May in New York, after Nafissatou Diallo, 32 year-old hotel maid, said he had forced her to perform oral sex when she arrived to clean his suite at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan. DSK was arrested on a plane scheduled to fly to Paris.
DSK has never contested that a sexual encounter took place but has denied claims it was forced.
The French Socialist Party was freed to return to France, where the authorities are investigating another case, claiming that DSK tried to rape a French journalist, Tristane Banon, in 2003. DSK’s lawyers have dismissed French journalist accusations as “fantasy”.
Tristan Banon’s lawyer, David Koubbi, who travelled to New York to meet prosecutor Cyrus Vance and Nafissatou Diallo, said he was dismayed by the decision to drop the sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
“I regret this outcome. I regret it for Nafissatou Diallo because I believed what she said,” he said. “I spoke to Tristane on Monday evening by telephone then during the night, then this morning [Tuesday].
“She is in a fighting mood. She isn’t ready to let this drop. But she feels sorry for what has happened to Nafissatou Diallo because she also believed her.”
David Koubbi added: “The credibility of my client is not, and has never been, called into question because of this.”
[googlead tip=”lista_mare”] At the beginning of DSK’s trial in Manhattan, office of district attorney initially called hotel maid’s statement “compelling”, claiming that she had provided “very powerful details”.
Diallo’s story was buttressed by forensic evidence: DSK semen was found on her uniform and her lawyer said doctors had taken photographs of her bruised vagina.
Things were changing when prosecutors found out that Diallo had lied to them and other US officials about her past, including giving a false account of having been gang-raped in her native country, Guinea. Diallo told interviewers she had used the false story to get herself and her daughter a chance of a better life in the US.
There were also other lies that appeared after the alleged attack. Diallo told a grand jury she had stayed in the hallway outside DSK’s room after the attack when evidence showed she had actually returned to his room, and to another one, before consulting her boss.
It then emerged she had discussed DSK’s wealth in a recorded phone conversation after the supposed attack.
Diallo’s lawyers said prosecutors were misinterpreting the conversation, conducted in Fulani, her native language, and that her account of the assault during the call had not differed.
A court document filed on Monday by prosecutors contained a devastating and detailed account of how Diallo had misled investigators.
“In virtually every substantive interview with prosecutors, despite entreaties to simply be truthful, she has not been truthful on matters great and small,” the document said, adding that the cumulative effect of Diallo’s misleading statements would prove “devastating” at any jury trial on the case.
“If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, we cannot ask a jury to do so.”
Diallo also sued DSK in civil court on August 8, a move that the Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers claimed the suit proved she was out for money.
The civil case is continuing, is unaffected legally by the dropping of criminal charges, and has a lesser burden of proof. Diallo’s lawyers will have to prove merely that it was “more likely than not” that DSK committed an assault.