- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

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.

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.

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, 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. Strauss-Kahn has denies the maid’s allegations all along.

The 33-year-old maid, Nafissatou Diallo, has sued 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.

Diallo did not attend the hearing. Her attorney Kenneth Thompson said outside court that she had been abandoned.

“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.”

Thompson’s partner addressed members of the French media in Paris, expressing similar concern and frustration. Diallo’s lawyers had no other plans to appeal.

Illuzzi-Orbon said prosecutors’ decision to drop the case “does not mean that we, in any way, condone the defendant’s behavior.”

On the streets of Guinea’s capital, Conakry, and on its airwaves and on the editorial pages of its major newspapers, opinions were mixed. A small and unscientific sample indicated that women tended to back Diallo, while men questioned her version of events.

“Since the beginning of time, the powerful have always won. Nafissatou Diallo didn’t stand a chance against DSK,” said Pepe Bimou, a computer programmer. “The only possible outcome was that she would lose.”

The stakes were high for Strauss-Kahn, who resigned his IMF post, spent nearly a week behind bars and then spent possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for house arrest, as well as for Vance, who was handling the biggest case he has had during his 18 months in office.

The 62-year-old diplomat was arrested after Diallo, said he chased her down, grabbed her crotch and forced her to perform oral sex.

There is no dispute that something happened in the room; DNA evidence showed his semen on her work clothes and prosecutors on Monday revealed additional details that led them to believe a sexual encounter occurred. Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys argued it wasn’t forced.

“At the very first appearance … I said in open court that this was not a forcible encounter,” Strauss-Kahn’s attorney Benjamin Brafman said outside court. “You can engage in inappropriate behavior, perhaps, but that is much different than a crime. And this case was treated as a crime — when it was not.”

In Guinea, people identifying themselves as relatives expressed deep disappointment at the prosecutors’ call to drop the case.

“I don’t think my cousin lied about DSK,” said Tidiane Diallo who owns a tea shack in Labe, near the village where Nafissatou was born. “Maybe there is a still a chance that they will find a resolution to this problem. You can’t tell Nafissatou Diallo to give up on the criminal case.”

Like many sexual assault cases, in which the accused and the accuser are often the only eyewitnesses, the Strauss-Kahn case hinges heavily on the maid’s believability.

Early on, prosecutors stressed that Diallo had provided “a compelling and unwavering story” replete with “very powerful details” and buttressed by forensic evidence. The police commissioner said seasoned detectives had found her credible.

But then prosecutors said July 1 they’d found the maid had told them a series of troubling falsehoods, including a persuasive but phony account of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea. She said she was echoing a story she’d told to enhance her 2003 bid for political asylum, but there’s no mention of it on her written application, prosecutors said in Monday’s filing. She told interviewers she was raped in her homeland under other circumstances.

Prosecutors continued investigating and said Monday they uncovered further damning information that lead them to believe they couldn’t ask a jury to believe her story.

Diallo has maintained that she feared what would happen if she told them the truth about her asylum application, and that the events have been taken out of context, and do not change the fact that she was wrongly attacked by Strauss-Kahn.

Associated Press reporter Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea, Verena Dobnik and Associated Press Television Reporter Bonny Ghosh in New York contributed to this report.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide