French writer to file sexual assault complaint against ex-IMF chief
Strauss-Kahn faces new charge as NY case teeters
PARIS - A French novelist will file a complaint today accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape, her lawyer said, raising the prospect of a new sexual assault investigation starting just as the US case against the former International Monetary Fund chief falters.
The announcement threw Strauss-Kahn’s legal situation in his home country into question, and injected fresh uncertainty into a national debate about whether he will be able to return to his political career and enter the 2012 presidential race.
Strauss-Kahn went on the offensive against his French accuser yesterday evening, saying through his legal team that he planned to file his own criminal complaint accusing her of slander.
The sexual assault case against Strauss-Kahn in New York was badly weakened last week by prosecutors’ publicly expressing doubts about the credibility of the hotel maid who accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex.
As a result, France was consumed yesterday morning by the question of whether the longtime Socialist Party politician would - or should - revive his dream of running against unpopular conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Strauss-Kahn’s supporters suffered a new shock within hours, when the lawyer for writer and journalist Tristane Banon announced she planned to file the complaint in Paris within a day.
Banon, 31, said on a 2007 television show that she had been attacked five years earlier by a politician she had interviewed for a book. She later identified the man as Strauss-Kahn.
“It finished very violently,’’ she said on the television show. “I kicked him. He opened my bra. He tried to undo my jeans. It finished very badly.’’
Lawyer David Koubbi said Banon had been dissuaded from filing charges by her mother, a regional councilor in Strauss-Kahn’s Socialist Party. Her mother, Anne Mansouret, admitted in a French television interview in May that she had urged her daughter not to file a complaint after the incident.
Banon came forward again after Strauss-Kahn’s May 14 arrest in New York, but Koubbi said his client had no intention of pressing charges while the American prosecution was going on because the two cases should be kept separate.
Banon is now moving forward, Koubbi said. He denied that decision was connected to the weakening of the US case.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers said yesterday that Strauss-Kahn “has always said that the incident described by Ms. Banon since 2007 is imaginary.’’
“He notes that this complaint comes quite conveniently right at the moment when there is no longer the slightest doubt about the false nature of the accusations against him in the United States,’’ attorneys Henri Leclerc and Frédérique Baulieu said in a joint statement.
If Banon files her complaint, a prosecutor can conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if there is enough evidence to support charges against Strauss-Kahn. Preliminary charges are followed by a lengthier investigation, sometimes lasting years, to determine if the case should go to trial before a judge.
Prosecutors could decide not to pursue the case if they find evidence Strauss-Kahn engaged in forcible sexual contact that fell short of attempted rape.
The statute of limitations on the charge of “sexual assault’’ is three years, while attempted rape charges can be filed for as many as 10 years after the alleged crime.
Strauss-Kahn had been widely seen as the leading presidential contender in the months before his arrest.