- (Photo: Reuters / Lucas Jackson)
The fast moving sexual assault case against former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn had some major twists and turns Friday with lawyers pointing fingers and alleging possible corruption.
The Manhattan district attorney's office conceded late Thursday there were "substantial credibility issues" with the victim’s story and background.
The victim, a housekeeper at the luxurious Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan, accused Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape in May while she was cleaning his suite.
The New York Times quoted a source close to the investigation this week as saying “the housekeeper had lied repeatedly and prosecutors no longer believed her account of the circumstances of the sexual encounter or of her own background.”
“She lied to a grand jury about what happened after the purported attack,” prosecutors told Strauss-Kahn's lawyers in a letter.
The district attorney's office discovered that the 32-year-old housekeeper, a native of Guinea, was linked to crimes such as drug dealing and money laundering and that she may have provided false information while seeking U.S. asylum, according to court records.
As a result of the DA’s discoveries this week, Strauss-Kahn walked out of a Manhattan courtroom today a free man – at least for now.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, posted a $1 million bail and a $5 million bond and has been under 24-hour home confinement for several weeks.
At the Friday morning bail hearing, the judge ordered that his $6 million bail and bond money returned.
Minutes after Strauss-Kahn was released on his own recognizance, Kenneth Thompson, attorney for the maid, made a stunning accusation against the New York District Attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and prosecutors saying they are "selling out" the victim.
At a lengthy press conference, Thompson outright accused the prosecution of trying to dismiss this case against Strauss-Kahn and mistreating the victim.
Thompson pointed out graphic details about the victim’s attack in the hotel suite. The details were so horrific, the BBC had to stop carrying Thompson’s press conference because of “the explicit nature of the lawyer’s comments.”
He spent much of his time in front of the cameras today talking about the physical evidence in the case including the woman’s bruised female areas, torn ligament in her shoulder, and torn stockings and DNA after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn. He said the DA's office has pictures of the victim's injuries.
Thompson said all of this evidence makes it "imperative for the District Attorney to prosecute the case for the victim as well as for all women victims of sexual assault," but he said the DA is preparing this case for dismissal rather than a court hearing.
He also said that the maid won’t go into hiding and will come forward to accuse Strauss-Kahn in the event the case doesn’t go to trial.
The credibility issues, inferred by the DA and announced to the world today, include telephone records that say that the maid spoke with a man in jail about the “benefits of prosecuting Strauss-Kahn.” Meaning, she could be financially rewarded for such an allegation.
Thompson said that the telephone call, even though he hasn’t heard it, confirms that the woman was attacked and that her story remains the same.
“Yes, the victim has made some mistakes,” Thompson told reporters.
“But does that mean we turn a blind eye to the fact that this woman was raped?”
Thompson told reporters that the victim said she would “go to my grave knowing what this man did to me. I have nothing left now. I am going to come out and tell the world what Dominique Strauss-Kahn did to me.”
Political analysts say the now internationally debated case could alter the political future of Vance, Manhattan's district attorney, who is just a year and a half into his career and now facing the highly publicized case.
Vance told reporters outside the courthouse today that the charges against Strauss-Kahn were still being investigated and confirmed that there are “raised concerns about the complaining witnesses' credibility."
He said his office will continue to investigate the charges "and will do so until we have uncovered all relevant facts." He disputed the allegations that his office had mistreated the victim in the case.
“We have and always will treat victims of sexual assault as a priority,” he told reporters.
He did not answer any questions at the press conference.
Friday's court drama means Strauss-Kahn will be free to travel in the USA. Authorities are keeping his passport, which will keep him from traveling out of the country.
The ankle monitor is now removed and he does not have to pay any more expensive fees for the armed guards who stood watch over him at his Lower Manhattan town house.
His attorney, William Taylor, told reporters outside the courthouse that it was a “great relief.”
“The case is evidence of how easy it is for people to be charged with serious crimes and for there to be a rush to judgment,” Taylor said.
“It shows that it is so important in this country that people, especially the media, refrain from judgment until the facts are all in.”
NPR reported that a poll conducted within days of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest showed that a majority of French think Strauss-Kahn was a victim of a plot.
However, he has also had a longstanding reputation as a womanizer and is nicknamed "the great seducer" in his homeland.
The developments Friday represent a stunning reversal in a case that “reshaped the French political landscape and sparked debate about morals, the treatment of women, and the American justice system,” according to media reports.
Strauss-Kahn, accompanied by his television newswoman wife Anne Sinclair, left the Manhattan courtroom smiling.
They both left in a black Lexus SUV.
Reporters asked Strauss-Kahn if he felt vindicated but he only looked at the crowd and left-without saying a word.
He is due back in court on July 18.
Key points about the case today:
1. Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is released from house arrest and the $6 million bail money was returned after a brief hearing. His passport is still held by the U.S. government.
2. Charges of attempted rape and sexual abuse against Strauss-Kahn remain but they are shaky.
3. He continues to insist that he is innocent of all accusations against him.
4. Media reports suggest law enforcement officials have serious doubts about the credibility of the woman who accuses him of rape.
5. The woman's lawyer says though his client may have made some "mistakes", she is still a rape victim.
6. The district attorney, responding to criticism of his office by the prosecution's lawyer, says he is committed "to the truth and to the facts."
7. The lawyers for the victim are accusing the DA's office of misconduct and "selling her out."
Reminder: Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting a woman working as a maid in the Sofitel hotel in downtown Manhattan on May 14.
He is charged with seven counts including four felony charges - two of criminal sexual acts, one of attempted rape and one of sexual abuse - plus three misdemeanor offenses, including unlawful imprisonment.