Thursday 22 February 2018

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: his likely sex assault defence

Strauss-Kahn and
his wife Anne
Sinclair outside
court yesterday,
where angry hotel
workers chanted 'shame on
Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his wife Anne Sinclair outside court yesterday, where angry hotel workers chanted 'shame on you'

Jon Swaine

Dominique Strauss-Kahn denies all seven criminal charges relating to his alleged sexual assault of a hotel chambermaid at the Sofitel on May 14. His attorneys have given several clues to how they will argue that he is not guilty. They are:

1. That a consensual sexual act may have taken place.

In court last month Ben Brafman, Mr Strauss-Kahn's lead attorney, said: "The forensic evidence, we believe, will not be consistent with a forcible encounter". This prompted suggestions that, faced with reports that DNA found on the maid's clothes matched Mr Strauss-Kahn's, Mr Brafman was accepting that some kind of sexual act took place, but would argue that it was agreed to by the 32-year-old Guinean maid. On Monday outside court, Mr Brafman said again: "It will be clear there was no element of forcible compulsion in this case whatsoever. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply not credible".

2. That Mr Strauss-Kahn was only rushing to get to lunch.

After the alleged attack, Mr Strauss-Kahn left the Sofitel in a hurry, reportedly failing to properly check out of his room. For the prosecution, John McConnell, an assistant district attorney, has argued that this suggests the former head of the International Monetary Fund needed to get away from his crime scene promptly. But Mr Strauss-Kahn's lawyers argue that he left in a rush only because he needed to make a lunch date with his daughter Camille, a 26-year-old graduate student at New York's Columbia University.

3. That Mr Strauss-Kahn would not have behaved the way he did if he were guilty.

After apparently leaving the lunch with his daughter, Mr Strauss-Kahn headed for John F. Kennedy airport, which is on the other side of New York City to Manhattan, where the alleged attack took place. En route, he twice telephoned the Sofitel to report that he had left one of his several mobile phones behind. By disclosing where he was, he allowed the New York police – who by then were at the hotel following an emergency call – to send detectives to arrest him. Mr Brafman has said such a move would have been "inconsistent with logic" if his client were guilty. Bizarrely, Mr Strauss-Kahn's mobile phone was not even at the hotel.

4. That Mr Strauss-Kahn was not capable of such an attack.

Citing unnamed sources that are said to have knowledge of Mr Strauss-Kahn's defence team's thinking, The New York Times reported on Monday that his attorneys are "expected to pursue the issue of whether it is even physically possible for an unarmed man, who is not particularly physically imposing, to force a person to engage in oral sex." It is likely that such a defence will also hinge on the physical size of the 32-year-old Guinean maid, who is not being named or photographed due to the nature of the alleged crimes.

5. That the maid cannot be trusted.

Mr Strauss-Kahn's attorneys last month claimed to have crucial evidence that would damage the integrity of the maid's story. Their comment came in a complaint to the judge about leaks to the New York media by investigators or prosecutors. "Were we intent on improperly feeding this media frenzy, we could now release substantial information that in our view would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in the case," they said. On Monday Kenneth Thompson, the maid's new lawyer, claimed a "smear campaign" had been mounted against his client.

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