Signs point to Strauss-Kahn case dismissal
Published 21/08/2011 | 05:00
Dominique Strauss-Kahn will reject any last-minute plea deal on minor charges that would give prosecutors a way to drop the case against him when he appears in court on Tuesday, his lawyers said.
Cyrus Vance Jr, the Manhattan district attorney, has been looking for a compromise that would allow his office to end the prosecution against the former IMF chief since serious concerns emerged about the credibility as a witness of his alleged victim, hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, 32.
However, a report in yesterday's New York Times said that Mr Vance and his team would meet Ms Diallo tomorrow, fuelling speculation that the charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn could now be dropped.
"If they were not going to dismiss the charges, there would be no need to meet her," said Ms Diallo's lawyer. "They would just go to court the next day to say: 'We're going to proceed with the case.'"
Were the case to go ahead, the most obvious get-out option would have been for Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, to plead guilty to a non-custodial misdemeanour assault in return for dropping attempted rape and other serious charges that can carry 25-year jail terms.
But the French politician and banker, who could be free to leave the US after Tuesday's hearing, is determined to emerge without a legal -- if not moral -- blemish from his encounter with the maid in a New York hotel suite.
Last week, his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said no formal plea deal request had been proposed. "Nor would we ever consider such a request if it was made, as Mr Strauss-Kahn did not commit any crime," Mr Brafman protested.
The case has been marked by a series of remarkable twists and turns that have captivated an international audience since Mr Strauss-Kahn's arrest on May 14.
Ms Diallo and her lawyers have already lodged a civil damages suit accusing Mr Strauss-Kahn of a "violent and sadistic" attack. They filed it in her home district of the Bronx, an overwhelmingly Hispanic and black borough where juries have a reputation for imposing heavy awards.
With Mr Vance's investigation in turmoil, both parties have fought their cases in the court of public opinion. The maid's camp adopted the tactic of shedding her anonymity and giving media interviews, as well as lodging the civil suit while criminal proceedings were still pending.
Leaks from sources linked to Mr Strauss-Khan's high-powered defence team have indicated that they would claim the encounter was consensual, and that Ms Diallo may have been a sometime prostitute who expected payment.
Mr Vance's investigators first insisted that Ms Diallo was a convincing witness, but then learnt of key inconsistencies in her past -- including lying on her asylum application, an invented previous rape in Guinea and false tax returns.
Perhaps the only issue not in doubt is that a sexual encounter took place, based on DNA found in the room. But in a case that would come down largely to his word versus hers, prosecutors believed the weaknesses in her history were extremely damaging.