Around the Nation
Sat July 2, 2011
How The Case Against Strauss-Kahn Fell Apart
The troubles that hit the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn this week may find a place in history books. As presiding judge Michael Obus put it mildly in court Friday, "I understand that the circumstances surrounding this case, from the viewpoint of the parties, have changed substantially."
With full agreement from prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's office, a man who spent weeks under house arrest walked out of the courthouse Friday with a smile, his arm slung around the shoulders of his wife.
Six weeks ago, a grand jury in New York indicted Strauss-Kahn for allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper. The former chief of the IMF lost his job, spent several nights in a jail cell, and got released only after he agreed to pay for guards to watch his every move. Authorities described an air-tight case against a high-voltage defendant.
All of that changed after prosecutors went public with doubts about their own victim's credibility.
That didn't sit well with Ken Thompson, a lawyer for the hotel housekeeper, who says she was the victim of a brutal attack.
"They agreed to let Dominique Strauss-Kahn freely roam the streets of New York City — or any other city in the United States — knowing full well that the victim, to this very day, maintains that he sexually assaulted her in that room," he said.
Thompson detailed the housekeeper's injuries: bruising, a torn ligament in her shoulder and ripped panty hose.
Then, he said, there's the forensic evidence. Police found DNA from Strauss-Kahn on her clothes and on the walls and carpet of the hotel room.
William Taylor, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, said the encounter was consensual, and all the hype about the strength of the prosecution's case looks very different now.
"People have to be mindful of that fact that in a heartbeat you can be locked up in Rikers Island and charged with a crime and everybody rushes to judgment," Taylor said. The case that cost Strauss-Kahn his job and his political ambitions back home in France is now on the ropes.
"I will say that he's not going to plead guilty to anything," Taylor said. Not even a misdemeanor. That pretty much closes the door on a possible plea deal.
District Attorney Cy Vance said prosecutors will continue to investigate, but now the victim's background is under a microscope as much as the defendant's.
"Our judicial system seeks to ensure fairness and justice for both victims and defendants," Vance said. "As prosecutors, our duty is to do what is right in every case, without fear or favor, wherever that leads."
"We believe that the district attorney is laying the foundation to dismiss this case," Thompson countered. "Anyone can see that." He said Vance is pulling his punches for a wealthy and famous suspect and failing to protect victims of rape.
"We believe he's afraid that he's going to lose this high-profile case, like he lost recently the high-profile case brought against two police officers," Thompson said. That case involved two police officers charged with raping a woman they picked up while she was drunk. A jury in New York refused to convict the officers this year.
Vance's prosecutors are said to believe the Strauss-Kahn case could follow the same path, given disclosures that the housekeeper lied on immigration paperwork, lied on tax forms and lied about her income on a housing application.
Thompson said the housekeeper came clean with most of those admissions herself. "It is a fact that the victim here made some mistakes, but that doesn't mean she's not a rape victim." Thompson said he wants to be sure the house keeper doesn't become the next victim of a rush to judgment.