Judge drops Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case
Ex-IMF chief freed at request of prosecutors
NEW YORK - The coda to one of New York’s most gripping and erratic criminal dramas lasted all of 12 minutes.
A prosecutor spoke first, quickly summarizing what had been obvious for weeks: The Manhattan district attorney’s office had little confidence in its case, and even less trust in the accuser it had initially championed. A defense lawyer was next, saying simply, “We do not oppose the motion.’’
Then the judge spoke.
And just like that, the sexual-assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was dismissed yesterday, bringing an end to what had been a three-month episodic criminal investigation, each chapter offering a sensational twist on the underlying storyline: Strauss-Kahn, a man of international power and prestige, was accused of sexually assaulting an immigrant hotel housekeeper after she entered his suite.
The dismissal order issued by Justice Michael J. Obus of State Supreme Court in Manhattan brought legal vindication to Strauss-Kahn, 62, after his stunning and embarrassing arrest. He was taken into custody May 14 aboard an
After the hearing, Strauss-Kahn issued his first statement since his arrest, characterizing the criminal inquiry as “a nightmare for me and my family’’ and thanking the judge, his wife, Anne Sinclair, family, and other supporters.
“Finally, we are obviously gratified that the district attorney agreed with my lawyers that this case had to be dismissed,’’ he added, saying he looked “forward to returning to our home and resuming something of a more normal life.’’
One of his lawyers, Benjamin Brafman, expects his client to go to Washington, where he and his wife own a home, to straighten out some personal matters.
“Until today, it was very hard to plan Dominique’s future,’’ Brafman said, noting that the prospect of many months of preparation and trial had loomed large. “You can think about what you want to do, but you had the threat of prison hanging over your head.’’
For the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, a 33-year-old Guinean immigrant, the result follows a precipitous fall. Prosecutors initially portrayed her as a credible, powerful witness, but then said that her myriad lies about her past - including a convincing, emotional, but fraudulent account of being gang-raped by soldiers in Guinea - undermined the case.
Diallo, who has made her identity public, has a civil suit pending against Strauss-Kahn for unspecified damages. Her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, has been relentless in his assertion that Strauss-Kahn forced his client to perform oral sex and that the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., should have taken the case to trial.
After the hearing, Thompson said Vance “has abandoned an innocent woman and has denied an innocent woman a right to get justice in a rape case.
“And by doing so, he has also abandoned other women who will be raped in the future or sexually assaulted.’’
Thompson made one last attempt to keep the criminal case alive, filing a motion Monday asking that Vance’s office be disqualified. An hour before yesterday’s hearing, a court clerk handed out a one-page decision in which Obus denied the motion.
Thompson appealed the decision, but an appellate judge struck down the appeal yesterday, clearing the way for Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, to return to France.
Vance has faced criticism from black civic leaders and women’s rights groups, some of whom protested outside the courthouse. To them, the case represented an instance of a powerful, wealthy man getting away with something he did to a poor immigrant woman. They argued that Diallo’s credibility problems should not prevent Vance from allowing a jury to decide whether it believed her.
Vance released a statement saying that his office was committed to protecting victims of sex crimes, even ones with “imperfect pasts.’’
“If we are convinced they are truthful about the crimes committed against them, and will tell the truth at trial, we will ask a jury to consider their testimony to prove a crime,’’ the statement said. “If we are not convinced, we cannot, should not, and do not take the case to a jury.’’
Vance has sought to allay criticism through a 25-page report that his office filed with the court Monday and through statements by the lead prosecutor on the case, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon.
The prosecution’s original report was about three times as long, but it was scaled back to provide only the details relevant to support the legal arguments and to spare Diallo embarrassment from unnecessary facts, a law enforcement official said.