- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2011

NEW YORK — At first, prosecutors said their sexual-assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was growing more formidable by the day. Six weeks later, they said his accuser’s history of lying raised major red flags, but they weren’t dropping the case, at least for now.

With the former International Monetary Fund leader freed from house arrest because the case has weakened, prosecutors aren’t saying what their next move may be.

The legal jostling comes as Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s compatriot and IMF successor Christine Lagarde prepares for her first full week as head of the international financial agency. The former French finance minister is expected to land in Washington on Monday and hold her first press conference as IMF chief Wednesday.

Some legal experts say prosecutors will all but have to abandon the case because of the damage to the accuser’s overall credibility, even if they think Mr. Strauss-Kahn attacked the woman, a housekeeper at a New York City hotel where he was staying. Still, at least one former high-level prosecutor thinks the case isn’t doomed.

For now, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is saying only that prosecutors will keep investigating “until we have uncovered all relevant facts.”

“Our commitment to the truth and the facts will govern how we proceed,” he said in a statement Friday.

Prosecutors have a number of options, including going ahead with the current charges or reducing them.

They could try to negotiate a plea deal, though it’s unclear whether Mr. Strauss-Kahn would entertain one. He has asserted his innocence, and the doubts raised about the woman’s trustworthiness would likely improve his chances at a trial. While prosecutors haven’t questioned her account of the purported attack itself, they say she’s been untruthful about a number of other things, including what she did right afterward. That could make potential jurors reluctant to take her word over that of Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

Or prosecutors could ask a judge to dismiss the case, as Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys have called on them to do.

“As a former sex-crimes prosecutor myself, I wouldn’t want to try this case,” said Allison Leotta, until recently an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., where the federal lawyers act as local prosecutors.

“People are going to have a very hard time believing her,” said Ms. Leotta, also the author of “Law of Attraction,” a recently published novel.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys say anything that happened between the two wasn’t forced.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name accusers of sex crimes unless they agree to be identified.

Authorities initially called the 32-year-old woman credible. But prosecutors now say she lied to them about her background — including fabricating an account of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea — and didn’t tell a grand jury she had gone on cleaning rooms for a time before alerting her supervisor about the attack. She also has fudged on tax forms to keep subsidized housing, they said.

The stakes are high for Mr. Vance. The DA’s biggest case in his 18 months in office prompted Mr. Strauss-Kahn to resign his IMF post and scrambled politics in his native France, where he had been considered a presidential contender in next year’s election. Mr. Vance personally made the call to bring formal charges against the IMF head after police arrested him, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss prosecutors’ internal decision-making.

A new poll indicates that the French are divided over whether Mr. Strauss-Kahn should re-enter politics after the weakening of the case against him.

Forty-nine percent of those surveyed in the Harris Interactive poll for French newspaper Le Parisien responded ‘yes’ to the question “Without prejudging his innocence or guilt, do you want [Mr. Strauss-Kahn] to come back to the French political scene one day?” Forty-five percent said ‘no’ and 6 percent did not answer the question.

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