NEW YORK – News that rape charges against French-Jewish politician and former
International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn might be on
the verge of collapse hit New York City by surprise over the
Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on Friday after
prosecutors said the hotel maid who accused him of attempted rape lied to a
grand jury, and made other false statements.
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Strauss-Kahn, 62, still
faces charges that he sexually assaulted the woman in New York, but questions
about her credibility appear to be shifting the case in his favor in a twist
that could upend French politics.
Strauss-Kahn smiled as he left the
courtroom with his wife, Anne Sinclair, at his side. Footage of him leaving the
State Supreme Court in Madison Square Park without bail after the prosecution
admitted to serious problems in the complainant’s testimony were broadcast live
on countless television screens throughout the city.
The local tabloids
were uncharacteristically ambivalent in their coverage. While some, like the New
York Daily News
, lead with the bellicose headline “Le Perv May Walk,” the New
put the relatively tame headline “DSK Case Bombshell” on its front
Such coverage was vastly different than the sensationalistic
headlines that appeared last month when accusations were first made against
Strauss-Kahn by a woman who said he had raped her at an expensive hotel in
On Friday, the prosecution said the woman’s testimony was
laden with falsehoods, inaccuracies and contradictions, seriously undermining
The Jewish politician’s ethnic background remained out
of the conversation, as it has since the case first erupted last month, with few
But the Financial Times
’ blog carried a talkback comparing
DSK to Alfred Dreyfuss, the French Jew whose false conviction for treason over a
century ago sparked off a wave of anti-Semitism and, inadvertently, inspired the
creation of the Zionist movement to counter such bigotry.
he was pursued mercilessly by new ideologues,” it read. “The hunt was on, and no
one wanted him as a next-door neighbor anymore... It was execution by image,
against a single man.”
Suddenly, talk was rife of a political
rehabilitation for the man who was until not long ago the front-runner in the
race for the presidency of France. But commentators said it was too early to
make any predictions over his future in politics.
“Let’s all stay calm,”
French politician Gérard Le Gall was quoted as saying. “It’s too early to
draw any conclusions.”
Until his arrest on May 14, Strauss-Kahn had been
a steward of the global economy and a leading contender in the 2012 French
presidential elections. Jubilant supporters in the French Socialist party now
hope he might rejoin the presidential race, but some analysts see him as too
Amid the scandal, he was forced to resign as head of the International Monetary
Fund on May 19. Christine Lagarde, who just stepped down as French
finance minister, will take over the top IMF job on Tuesday.
first taste of freedom since being pulled off a Paris-bound jetliner hours after
the purported attack, Strauss-Kahn emerged on Friday evening from the townhouse
where he had been under house arrest and was driven with his wife and another
couple to Scalinatella, a pricey Italian restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers want all the charges against him
“We are absolutely convinced that while today is a first giant
step in the right direction, the next step will lead to a complete dismissal of
the charges,” his high-priced lawyer Benjamin Brafman said.
said prosecutors will reexamine the evidence after they revealed the housekeeper
lied to a grand jury about her actions after the alleged attack, and on tax and
The woman initially said that after Strauss-Kahn
assaulted her, she cowered in the hallway outside his room until he left and she
felt safe to seek help. Now, prosecutors say, she admits she cleaned a nearby
room and then returned to start cleaning Strauss-Kahn’s suite before reporting
Later on Friday, investigators said that card-key data
showed she had cleaned Strauss-Kahn’s suite before cleaning another room, The
New York Times
As Judge Michael Obus released Strauss-Kahn, he
told those in the courtroom: “I understand that the circumstances of this case
have changed substantially, and I agree the risk that he would not be here has
receded quite a bit. There will be no rush to judgment. The people will continue
to investigate and reexamine the matter as appropriate.”
whose house arrest had included electronic monitoring and an armed guard, agreed
to return to court as needed, including for a hearing on July 18.
bail payment of $1 million and bond of $5m. were returned to him, but his
passport was not.
Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told the court, “The
facts of the sexual encounter was, and is, corroborated” but some details appear
to have changed.
The complainant’s brother told Reuters in Guinea that
she was the victim of a smear campaign.
Her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson,
said after the hearing his client’s story had never wavered, adding that
Strauss-Kahn had bruised her badly and tore a ligament in her
“The claim that this was consensual is a lie,” Thompson told
reporters. “She made some mistakes, but that doesn’t mean she is not a rape
The case has hinged on the accuser, a 32-year-old Guinean
immigrant who cleaned the $3,000-a-night suite at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan
where Strauss-Kahn was staying.
Prosecutors found issues with her asylum
application, tax return and statements to the grand jury investigating the
assault case, court documents showed.The New York Times
enforcement officials as saying prosecutors had found possible links between the
accuser and people involved in drug dealing and money laundering.
a well-placed law enforcement official, the paper reported on Friday that in
particular, prosecutors were alarmed by a phone call the woman made within
28-hours of the alleged assault to a jailed boyfriend in Arizona.
call was recorded, but it was in a special dialect of the Guinean language of
Puli. When the translation was finally completed on Wednesday, prosecutors were
alarmed, the paper said.
“She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry,
this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’” the paper quoted the
official as saying.
It said their image of her as a pious, devout Muslim
shattered by the experience slowly changed as they interviewed her, and more and
more inconsistencies came to light.
“Sit-downs with prosecutors became
tense, even angry. Initially composed, she later collapsed in tears and got down
on the floor during questioning. She became unavailable to investigators from
the district attorney’s office for days at a time,” the paper said.
said the last meeting, on Thursday, was devastating.
confronted her with bank records showing deposits of thousands of dollars in
accounts in her name in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania, the woman –
who repeatedly claimed that her Sofitel job was her only source of income –
became silent and turned to her lawyer for guidance.
speechless,” the paper quoted the official as saying.
suggested that Strauss-Kahn, known as the “great seducer” of French politics,
could have been set up.
His arrest opened the field for several other
Socialist candidates for next April’s presidential election, including party
leader Martine Aubry, who trails colleague Francois Hollande in opinion
Sarkozy, who nominated Strauss- Kahn for the IMF job, has not
commented on the affair since his arrest. The case has prompted debate in France
on gender equality and a media tradition of respecting