NEW YORK — A pair of judges put an end Tuesday to the sensational sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, setting him free after prosecutors argued the hotel housekeeper accusing the French diplomat of sexual assault couldn't be trusted.
The decision to drop the charges in a case that has attracted global attention as a cauldron of sex, violence, power and politics had been widely expected. Prosecutors filed court papers Monday saying that they could not trust the word of the hotel housekeeper accusing the French diplomat of attempted rape.
"Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that," Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in formally recommending the case be dismissed.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn arrived at court in a six-car motorcade and was greeted by protesters wielding signs carrying such messages as "DSK treats women like property" and "Put the rapist on trial - not the victim." The shouting could be heard inside the courtroom.
He appeared resolute in the courtroom, wearing a dark gray suit, blue shirt and striped tie. He smiled and shook hands with his biographer as his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, sat nearby. The couple left court without speaking to reporters but issued a statement in English afterward.
"These past two and a half months have been a nightmare for me and my family," he said. "I want to thank all the friends in France and in the United States who have believed in my innocence, and to the thousands of people who sent us their support personally and in writing. I am most deeply grateful to my wife and family who have gone through this ordeal with me. ...
"We will have nothing further to say about this matter and we look forward to returning to our home and resuming something of a more normal life," he said.
Later, he appeared outside the posh Tribeca town house where he was held under house arrest until July, when prosecutors first publicly admitted they had doubts about the woman's credibility. He summed up the statement in French and was mobbed by reporters.
A news conference with the district attorney was postponed after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Virginia was felt in New York City.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said he would dismiss the case, but first wanted an appeals court to decide whether a special prosecutor should be appointed. Shortly before the dismissal ruling, Justice Obus had denied the request to appoint a special prosecutor, saying there was nothing that would disqualify Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance from heading the case. Within hours, the appeals court agreed.
The maid from the West African nation of Guinea claimed that the one-time French presidential contender attacked her and sexually assaulted her when she arrived to clean his luxury suite May 14. When prosecutors brought charges, they touted their evidence as strong but later noted that DNA evidence didn't prove a forced encounter. Mr. Strauss-Kahn has denied the maid's allegations all along.
The maid, Nafissatou Diallo, 33, has sued Mr. Strauss-Kahn and came forward in a series of interviews with media after it became clear prosecutors were losing faith in her credibility. The Associated Press does not usually name people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as she has done.