New York: The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who hoped to be the next French president, collapsed because what prosecutors believed was strong testimony deteriorated into a fabric of lies.
Manhattan prosecutors, who arrested Strauss-Kahn, 62, on the word of 32-year-old Nafissatou Diallo, said on Monday she told them lie after lie, leading them to urge the judge overseeing the case to dismiss all charges against the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“The complainant has been persistently, and at times inexplicably, untruthful in describing matters of both great and small significance,” prosecutors said in a detailed 25-page filing to New York state Supreme Court judge Michael Obus. “In our repeated interviews with her, the complete truth about the charged incident and her background has, for that reason, remained elusive.”
Strauss-Kahn was seen as a leading contender for the French presidency until his arrest 14 May on attempted rape and sexual abuse charges, throwing the French political scene into chaos and forcing him to resign from the IMF days later.
On Monday, prosecutors said that because they could not believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the Guinean maid was telling the truth, “we cannot ask a jury to do so.” The document said the sexual encounter at the center of the case, which generated lurid headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, likely lasted no more than nine minutes.
In the hours after Strauss-Kahn was first detained, a forensic team and prosecutors established a sexual encounter had indeed taken place, and that it had been very brief, suggesting to investigators that it had not been consensual. Based on her account of the attack and that “no red flags” in her background had been immediately obvious, prosecutors brought the case to a grand jury in order to formally indict Strauss-Kahn, the filing said.
But the case soon fell apart. In one instance, forensics swabs picked up no trace of Diallo’s DNA in a sink where she told prosecutors she had spit after the encounter. Doctors also concluded that “redness” on Diallo’s genitals could not conclusively be attributed to an attack, as her attorneys have claimed. Aside from ambiguous medical and forensic evidence, prosecutors detailed how they began to uncover lies about her past and mysterious, and previously undisclosed, sums of money being deposited into her bank account.
Diallo’s lawyers, who have been harshly critical of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance’s handling of the case, filed a motion hours before the prosecutor’s filing asking a judge to replace his office with a special prosecutor - something experts say is unlikely to happen.
Perhaps most damning of all, prosecutors said, where three separate version of events Diallo told them about her actions immediately after the encounter with Strauss-Kahn in Suite 2806 of the Sofitel Hotel near Times Square.
In version one, under oath before the grand jury, she said she had run down the hall of the hotel’s 28th floor where she was found frightened and cowering by her supervisors. In version two, she told prosecutors that immediately after the encounter, she went to another room to continue her cleaning duties and only encountered her supervisor by chance at the supply closet. In the third version, Diallo said she went to the other hotel room only briefly to retrieve supplies.
“These varying accounts also make it difficult to ascertain what actually occurred in the critical time frame when the incident occurred,” they wrote.
The move to dismiss the case had been widely expected after prosecutors first revealed concerns about Diallo’s credibility in late June. But in their filing on Monday, prosecutors revealed the full extent of their distrust of Diallo. In particular, prosecutors described an impassioned and tearful Diallo telling them about a previous gang rape in Guinea - which turned out to have been a lie.
“That it was told to prosecutors as an intentional falsehood and done in a completely persuasive manner - identical to the manner in which she recounted the encounter with the defendant - is also highly significant,” they wrote. “But most significant is her ability to recount that fiction as fact with complete conviction.”
Strauss-Kahn will return to court Tuesday, when Obus will almost certainly grant the district attorney’s request to drop the case. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, praised prosecutors for recognizing that his client was innocent.