Prosecutors: Drop Strauss-Kahn Charges

By: CBS News; AP
By: CBS News; AP

New York, NY (CBS/AP) - Prosecutors in New York have filed papers recommending that some or all charges in the sex assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn be dropped.

The filing Monday in the case against the former International Monetary Fund leader was not immediately made public, and details weren't released.

His accuser, a hotel housekeeper, and her lawyer met briefly with prosecutors Monday. It had been widely expected that prosecutors would announce plans to reduce or drop the charges.

Questions have surrounded the credibility of the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. There were also questions about the strength of the evidence that a forcible encounter had occurred in the hotel room in May.

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Dismissal of the criminal charges wouldn't end Strauss-Kahn's legal trouble stemming from his encounter with Diallo in May: She is also suing him, seeking to make him pay financially, if not with his freedom.

The case captured international attention as a seeming cauldron of sex, violence, power and politics: A promising French presidential contender, known in his homeland as "the Great Seducer," accused of a brutal and contemptuous attack on an African immigrant who came to clean his plush hotel suite.

The stakes were high for Strauss-Kahn, who resigned his IMF post, spent nearly a week behind bars and then spent possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for house arrest, as well as for DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who was handling the biggest case he has had during his 18 months in office.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, Benjamin Brafman and William W. Taylor, didn't immediately respond to email messages. The DA's office declined to comment.

Thompson filed papers Monday reiterating his call for the appointment of a special prosecutor and seeking to put the case on hold until a judge rules on the request.

The DA's handling of the case "has been inadequate and troubling," Thompson's papers say, and if the charges are dismissed, Strauss-Kahn "will never be held accountable at a criminal trial for the horrific crimes that he committed against Ms. Diallo, and a miscarriage of justice, which cannot be remedied, will have been allowed to occur."

The request may face tall odds. Special prosecutors generally come in when a DA has a personal conflict of interest, such as having represented a defendant while in private practice, said Bennett L. Gershman, a Pace Law School professor.

In France, the political waters were stirring at the news and its potential implications for the country's presidential race. Before his May arrest, Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist, had seemed the most likely to take on French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's election — and many thought he would beat the incumbent.

In the weeks before the deadline for Socialist Party candidates to declare they were running, the most prominent contenders said they would be willing to bend the rules for Strauss-Kahn if he were to be cleared. But on Monday, with the campaign in full force, candidates and the party seemed a bit more circumspect. Benoit Hamon, spokesman for the party, told reporters that he would not comment before the D.A.'s office made a decision.

"We hope it will be favorable for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, so he can fully get back his freedom, so we can hear from him again," Hamon said.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, was arrested after Diallo, 32, said the diplomat chased her down and forced her to perform oral sex when she arrived to clean his plush suite at the Sofitel hotel.

Strauss-Kahn denied the allegations. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have said anything that happened wasn't forced. Thompson calls that "utter nonsense."

Like many sexual assault cases, in which the accused and accuser are often the only eyewitnesses, the Strauss-Kahn case has hinged heavily on the woman's believability.

Early on, prosecutors stressed that Diallo had provided "a compelling and unwavering story" replete with "very powerful details" and buttressed by forensic evidence; his semen was found on her uniform. The police commissioner said seasoned detectives had found her credible.

But then prosecutors said July 1 they'd found the maid had told them a series of troubling falsehoods, including a persuasive but phony account of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea. She said she was echoing a story she'd told to enhance her 2003 application for political asylum. She told interviewers she was raped in her homeland under other circumstances and embellished it to get herself and her 15-year-old daughter a chance at a better life in the U.S.

She also wasn't consistent about what she did after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn, telling a grand jury she had hovered in a hallway when she actually returned to his and another room before consulting her boss, prosecutors said. She said the alleged discrepancy was a misunderstanding.

She also alluded to Strauss-Kahn's wealth in a recorded phone conversation with a jailed friend, and her bank account had been a repository for tens of thousands of dollars she couldn't explain, a law enforcement official has said.

She said a jailed man had used the bank account without telling her. As for the phone call, her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, said she mentioned Strauss-Kahn's money only to say that her alleged attacker was influential.

She sued Strauss-Kahn Aug. 8, seeking unspecified damages and promising to air other allegations that Strauss-Kahn accosted and attacked women in other locales.

His lawyers called her suit a meritless claim that proved she was out for money.

The Associated Press generally doesn't name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or publicly identify themselves, as Diallo and Banon have done.

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