Focus on accuser as Strauss-Kahn's conditions eased
THE CONFIDENT, smiling Dominique Strauss-Kahn who strode out of the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday was a different man from the downcast, lethargic alleged sex criminal who was jeered with cries of “Shame on you” at his previous court appearance on June 6th.
Mr Strauss-Kahn smiled because prosecutors had just admitted to serious doubts about the credibility of the 32-year-old hotel maid who accused him of attempting to rape her and forcing her to perform oral sex when she went to clean his $3,000-a-night suite at the Sofitel on May 14.
Judge Michael Obus released Mr Strauss-Kahn on his own recognizance, returned $1 million (€690,000) in bail to Mr Strauss-Kahn’s wife, Anne Sinclair, and annulled the $5 million bond held on the couple’s Georgetown home.
The felony charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn have not been dropped. “There will be no rush to judgment in this case. The people will continue to examine the matter as it is appropriate,” the judge said. Mr Strauss-Kahn’s passport has not been returned to him. But he will no longer have to wear an ankle bracelet, be confined to the Manhattan townhouse that his wife rented for $50,000 a month, or pay for two round-the-clock security guards.
As the judge dismissed the 10-minute hearing, Mr Strauss-Kahn said, “Thank you your honour,” and turned to smile at his wife and attorneys.
The case is collapsing not because of doubts about a sexual encounter between him and the hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo – Mr Strauss-Kahn’s sperm was found on Ms Diallo’s clothing and in the hotel suite, from what his lawyers say was a consensual act — but because the prosecution simply no longer believes the alleged victim.
In a three-page letter to Mr Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys released yesterday, the assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orban related the prosecution’s investigation into Ms Diallo’s background.
Ms Diallo entered the US on a fraudulent visa in January 2004 and applied for political asylum in December of that year. In her application, she claimed that she and her late husband were harassed and persecuted because they opposed the regime in Guinea. She signed a statement that their home was destroyed, both were beaten, her husband was imprisoned and tortured and later died from maltreatment. In interviews with the district attorney’s team, Ms Diallo admitted that she had fabricated the story with the help of a man who gave her an audio tape to memorise.
Ms Diallo told prosecutors that she had been gang-raped in Guinea, then changed her story to say she had been raped, but in different circumstances.
She also changed her story regarding events on May 14th. For weeks, she said she hid on the 28th floor of the Sofitel until she saw Mr Strauss-Kahn leave the suite, then reported the attack to her supervisor.
She “has since admitted that this account was false and that after the incident in Suite 2806, she proceeded to clean a nearby room and then returned to Suite 2806 and began to clean that suite before she reported the incident to her supervisor,” the assistant district attorney wrote.
Although it was not mentioned in the letter, the New York Times reported that within a day of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, Ms Diallo telephoned a man imprisoned for possession of 180 kilos of marijuana to discuss the possible financial benefits of the case. Ms Diallo reportedly received $100,000 from the same man and other people linked to drug dealing and money laundering over the past two years.
The letter to Mr Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys also noted that Ms Diallo falsely declared a friend’s child as a dependant on her income tax returns and lied about her income to remain in low income housing.
Ms Diallo’s attorney, Kenneth Thompson, admitted that his client had falsified her asylum application, but said evidence of a sexual assault was still valid, namely photographs of Ms Diallo’s bruised vagina, torn pantyhose and a shoulder injury she sustained when Mr Strauss-Kahn threw her to the floor.
The collapse of the prosecution’s case is an embarrassment to the New York district attorney Cyrus Vance jnr, who told journalists at the time of the indictment that the charges of sexual assault were “extremely serious” and that “evidence supports the commission of nonconsensual forced sexual acts”.