NEW YORK (AP) — Word of a settlement agreement between former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a hotel maid who accused him of trying to rape her could bring an end to a saga that has tarnished Strauss-Kahn’s reputation, ended his hopes for the French presidency and renewed a debate about the credibility of sexual assault accusers.
But it might not mean the end of legal troubles for Strauss-Kahn. He is awaiting a ruling on whether he is linked to “pimping” in connection with a French prostitution ring.
A person familiar with the New York case said Thursday that lawyers for Strauss-Kahn and the housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, made the as-yet-unsigned agreement within recent days, with Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon facilitating that and a separate agreement to end another lawsuit Diallo filed against the New York Post. A court date is expected next week, though the day wasn’t set, the person said.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private agreement.
Details of the deal, which comes after prosecutors dropped related criminal charges last year, weren’t immediately known and likely will be veiled by a confidentiality agreement. That could prevent Strauss-Kahn and Diallo from speaking publicly about a May 2011 encounter that she called a brutally sudden attack and he termed a consensual “moral failing.”
Strauss-Kahn lawyer William W. Taylor III declined to comment. Lawyers for the housekeeper didn’t immediately respond to phone and email messages.
Diallo, 33, and Strauss-Kahn, 63, crossed paths when she arrived to clean his luxury Manhattan hotel suite. She told police he chased her down, tried to yank down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex.
The allegation seemed to let loose a spiral of accusations about the sexual conduct of Strauss-Kahn, a married diplomat and economist who had long been dubbed the “great seducer.”
With DNA evidence showing a sexual encounter and Diallo providing a gripping description of an attack, the Manhattan district attorney’s office initially said it had a strong and compelling case. But within six weeks, prosecutors’ confidence began to ebb as they said Diallo had lied about her past — including a false account of a previous rape — and her actions after leaving Strauss-Kahn’s room.
Diallo, who’s from Guinea, said she told the truth about their encounter. But the district attorney’s office dropped the charges in August 2011, saying prosecutors could no longer ask a jury to believe her.
Diallo had sued Strauss-Kahn in the meantime, with her lawyers saying she would get her day in a different court. Strauss-Kahn called the lawsuit defamatory and countersued her for $1 million.
Strauss-Kahn’s whereabouts Friday were unclear. After his return to France in September 2011, Strauss-Kahn initially kept a very low profile. But in recent months, he has shown signs he is trying to rebuild his professional reputation, giving speeches at international conferences and reportedly setting up a consulting company in Paris.
Unconfirmed reports surfaced Wednesday that Diallo was in Paris this week on the invitation of a feminist group. A French lawyer who works with her U.S. defense team, Thierry de Montbrial, told The Associated Press that the reports were untrue. He declined any comment on the settlement.
Diallo’s lawsuit against The Post concerned a series of articles that called her a prostitute and said she sold sex at a hotel where the Manhattan DA’s office had housed her during the criminal case. The News Corp. newspaper has said it stands by its reporting; a spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday.
In helping resolve the cases, McKeon averted what could have been an ugly court drama.
Strauss-Kahn initially said he had diplomatic immunity, an argument the judge turned down in May. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers had since asked McKeon to throw out part of her claim for other legal reasons. Court records show the judge had yet to rule on that and several other legal issues, and it appeared that a high-stakes step — depositions, or pretrial questioning under oath — had not yet been taken. Depositions can give both sides information and a better picture of how strong the key parties and other witnesses might be in court.
While the vast majority of civil cases end in settlements, some legal observers were surprised that the deal between Strauss-Kahn and Diallo came before the legal arguments were resolved.
“I really expected it to go a little farther,” said Matthew Galluzzo, a criminal defense lawyer and civil litigator who has been following the Strauss-Kahn case closely.
Still, the case likely had taken a toll on both Diallo, a single mother of a teenage daughter, and Strauss-Kahn, who has found himself plagued by accusations of sexual misconduct that further sullied his reputation. The Socialist had been seen as a potential leading candidate for the French presidency before his New York arrest.
In France, judges are to decide by Dec. 19 whether to annul charges linking him to a suspected prostitution ring run out of a luxury hotel in Lille. He acknowledges attending “libertine” gatherings but denies knowing that some women present were paid.
In August, a separate case against Strauss-Kahn, centered on allegations of rape in a Washington, D.C., hotel, was dropped after French prosecutors said the accuser, an escort, changed her account to say she wasn’t raped.
Soon after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York last year, French writer Tristane Banon accused him of attempting to rape her during an interview in 2003, a claim he called imaginary and slanderous. Prosecutors said they believed the encounter qualified as a sexual assault, but the legal timeframe to pursue her complaint had elapsed.
The Associated Press does not name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Diallo and Banon have done.
Strauss-Kahn has separated from his wife, journalist and heiress Anne Sinclair, who stood by him through the allegations in New York. The two said they were filing a lawsuit this summer against a French magazine, citing invasion of privacy, for reporting they had split, but Sinclair later acknowledged it was true.
The New York Times first reported the agreement between Strauss-Kahn and Diallo.
Associated Press Writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
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