Wednesday 21 March 2018

Strauss-Kahn walks free as hotel maid rape case on brink of collapse

Jon Swaine in New York

SEVEN weeks after a haggard, rumpled and scowling shadow of Dominique Strauss-Kahn was first hauled in front of a New York judge, his old self swaggered into room 1324 at the State Supreme Court yesterday with a wry smile.

In a crisp navy suit, pressed white shirt and baby blue tie, he beamed like a man already plotting his sensational comeback as an international statesman, as New York prosecutors and lawyers for the 32-year-old hotel maid who continues to allege that he tried to rape her looked shell-shocked.

Eight minutes later, the 62-year-old -- who had been under house arrest and armed guard in a Manhattan townhouse, wearing an electronic tag -- was free. The $1m (€690,000) cash bail and $5m (€3.45m) bond put up by his wife, the wealthy heiress Anne Sinclair, were returned.

Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, an assistant district attorney, told the court that "the fact of a sexual encounter" between the pair after the maid arrived to clean suite 2086 of the Manhattan Sofitel on May 14, "was and is corroborated by the forensic evidence".

However, "substantial credibility issues" had been found with the maid, following a "comprehensive and thorough investigation of all aspects of this case, including the background of the complainant and her various statements about the incident".

A filing to the court confirmed extraordinary overnight leaks to the media, stating that the Guinean single mother had admitted to lying on her application for asylum in the US in 2004, lied about previously being raped and lied on her income tax returns.

It was also reported that the maid was recorded speaking on the telephone about the "potential benefits" of pressing charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn with a man who was being held for possession of 400lb of marijuana, and that she had $100,000 (€69,000) of mysterious cash deposits put in her bank account.

But, perhaps most crucially, after repeatedly claiming that after the alleged attack "she fled to an area of the main hallway" of the Sofitel and hid until seeing Mr Strauss-Kahn leave his suite, she now admits that she "proceeded to clean a nearby room" before choosing to report the incident to her supervisor, the court filing said.

"All of this has caused us to reassess the position that we have advanced to this court about the strength of the case," Ms Illuzzi-Orbon told Judge Michael Obus.

But "we are not moving to dismiss the case", she said, adding: "At this time."

Granting the request by Mr Strauss-Kahn's attorneys for his release, Judge Obus told him: "In light of recent developments, the risk that you will not be here appears to have receded quite a bit".

He retained his passport, ensuring he could not flee to France, which does not extradite its citizens. But he will be free to return to his house in Washington DC.

"Of course, the case is not over," added the judge, telling the former International Monetary Fund chief to return for a July 18 hearing.

Kenneth Thompson, lead attorney for the maid, said that she had continued cleaning on May 14 because "she did not want to lose her job".

"This woman made some mistakes, but that doesn't mean she's not a rape victim," he said. "She told me 'I am going to come out and tell the world what Dominique Strauss-Kahn did to me'."

It appeared likely yesterday that -- in court at least -- she may never get the chance. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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