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Strauss-Khan free but faces civil lawsuit and rape investigation case in France

Wednesday, August 24th 2011 - 07:10 UTC
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The former IMF chief and lawyers leave the courtroom The former IMF chief and lawyers leave the courtroom

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Khan, no longer facing sexual-assault charges in New York for what one of his lawyers called “inappropriate behaviour,” remains a defendant in a civil lawsuit by his accuser and the subject of a French rape investigation.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus granted on Tuesday District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr request to dismiss the indictment against Strauss-Kahn. Obus rejected the accuser’s bid for a special prosecutor in the case, a decision that an appeals court already has refused to reverse.

Vance’s office sought to dismiss the case after concluding that the housekeeper, who accused Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her and forcing her to have oral sex, had lied about events surrounding the alleged May 14 attack at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan.

“Unless you have been falsely accused of a very serious crime that you did not commit, it is impossible for you to understand or grasp the full measure of relief that Dominique Strauss-Kahn feels today,” Benjamin Brafman, one of his lawyers, told reporters. “This was not a forcible encounter. You can engage in inappropriate behaviour perhaps, but that is much different than a crime and this case was treated as a crime when it was not.”

Brafman said in an e-mail that he expects Strauss-Kahn’s travel documents to be returned Wednesday. Investigators in France are probing allegations that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape French writer Tristane Banon eight years ago, a claim he has denied.

Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel housekeeper, will pursue her lawsuit in which she accuses Strauss-Kahn of “deplorable acts,” according to her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson.

“Women who are raped and sexually assaulted should not have to go through some test to show that they lived a perfect life,” Thompson told reporters. “The standard shouldn’t be whether they lived a pristine life or whether they came to the United States on the Mayflower.”

The dismissal came about three months after Strauss-Kahn, once a potential French presidential candidate, was pulled off a flight at JFK International Airport on May 14 and arrested.

The experience has been “a nightmare for me and my family,” Strauss-Kahn, 62, said in a statement after Obus ruled. “We are obviously gratified that the District Attorney agreed with my lawyers that this case had to be dismissed. We appreciate his professionalism and that of the people who were involved in that decision.”

Strauss-Kahn may take legal action against Diallo, Brafman said in an e-mail.

“We will consider whether to file appropriate counter claims if civil litigation continues,” he said.

Diallo told police that Strauss-Kahn attacked her when she went to clean his suite at the Sofitel. During an investigation, Diallo, 33, admitted to lying about the circumstances of the incident and other matters. Prosecutors said those lies made it impossible to pursue the case.

“The complainant was untruthful with us in nearly every substantive interview,” Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court today. “She was untruthful about matters great and small in significance.”

A press conference by Vance was interrupted by an earthquake that shook the eastern US from at least North Carolina to New York, Washington and Toronto.

Vance said later in a statement that his office wasn’t persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed.

“The crimes charged in the indictment required the people to prove that Strauss-Kahn engaged in a sexual encounter using force and without the complainant’s consent,” Vance said in the statement. “Proof of these two critical elements -- force and lack of consent -- rests solely on the complaining witness’ testimony. But her testimony was fatally damaged.”

Evidence collected by New York investigators established that Strauss-Kahn engaged in “a hurried sexual encounter” with the maid, “but it does not independently establish her claim of a forcible, non-consensual encounter,” prosecutors said in a court filing Monday requesting the dismissal.

Prosecutors said Diallo gave three different accounts of what happened immediately after the encounter at the Sofitel, and admitted to lying to the grand jury, something defence lawyers could have used against her at a criminal trial. Prosecutors said she told investigators a fictitious tale, “with great emotion and conviction,” about how she was gang- raped by soldiers in her native Guinea.

“In a case where a complainant is accusing a defendant of a sexual assault, the fact that she has given a prior false account of a different sexual assault is highly relevant,” prosecutors said.

They said Diallo also repeatedly asserted that she wouldn’t try to make money off of the case, only to sue Strauss-Kahn this month. She failed to disclose 60.000 dollars in cash deposits made into her checking account by individuals in four different states, and she lied about her job to obtain low-income housing, prosecutors said.

“If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, we cannot ask a jury to do so,” prosecutors said.

Categories: Politics, International.

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