PARIS — A French author who claims Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a book interview says she is filing a criminal complaint Tuesday in order to clear her own name of suspicion that she had fabricated the accusation.
Tristane Banon told French news magazine L’Express that she was tired of hearing “lies and rumors” told about the incident in 2003 with the former IMF chief.
“I can’t take it anymore hearing that I must be lying because I haven’t filed suit,” Banon said.
Strauss-Kahn is free on bail in New York, charged with attempted rape and other crimes after a maid accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex in his New York hotel room in May. The U.S. case has been badly weakened by doubts about the accuser’s credibility. Strauss-Kahn resigned from his job as chief of the International Monetary Fund to fight the charges.
Banon said she had waited eight years before filing her complaint because “it’s very difficult for any woman in this situation … and it’s even more difficult when you know in advance that it’s doomed to failure.”
Banon, 31, says she described some of the attack in an “autobiographical novel” she published in 2006 called “The Trapezist.”
“I left out some sordid details, about his fingers in my mouth, his hands in my underwear after he ripped off my jeans and my bra,” Banon said.
“He grabbed my hand, then my arm, I told him to let me go and that’s when the fight started. He pulled me towards him, we fell down and fought on the ground for a few minutes,” Banon said.
She said she started kicking him with her boots, then finally broke free, ran down the stairs and called her mother from her car.
“I couldn’t even drive I was trembling so much,” she said.
Lawyer David Koubbi said Banon had been dissuaded from filing charges by her mother, Anne Mansouret, a regional councilor in Strauss-Kahn’s Socialist party. Mansouret now says she regrets urging her daughter not to file a complaint after the incident but she feared that taking action against such a powerful Frenchman would affect her daughter’s career.
If Banon files her complaint, a prosecutor can conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if there is enough evidence to support charges against Strauss-Kahn. Preliminary charges are followed by a lengthier investigation, sometimes lasting years, to determine if the case should go to trial before a judge.
The same process would apply to the slander complaint against Banon.
A slander charge can be brought against anyone who French prosecutors believe deliberately filed a false complaint with authorities. In Banon’s case, an investigation would begin only if her attempted rape complaint is found to be false. A slander charge carries a maximum term of five years in a prison and a 45,000-euro ($65,000) fine.
French prosecutors could decide not to pursue the case against Strauss-Kahn if they find evidence he engaged in forcible sexual contact that fell short of attempted rape. The statute of limitations on sexual assault charges in France is three years, while attempted rape charges can be filed for up to 10 years after the alleged crime.
Before the U.S. assault charges, Strauss-Kahn was considered the Socialist Party’s strongest possible candidate to defeat conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy in France’s 2012 presidential election.
Strauss-Kahn has relinquished his passport to authorities in New York and his next court appearance is on July 18.