Strauss-Kahn: Defense praises dropping of charges against client
A judge dropped all charges Tuesday against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a day after prosecutors said the hotel maid who had accused him of trying to rape her could not be trusted.
A total of seven charges -- four felonies and three misdemeanors -- were dropped, and Strauss-Kahn walked out of court smiling following the 13-minute hearing. In his ruling, Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus said he was "satisfied" that prosecutors' application to drop the case "was made in good faith... I see no basis to deny the people's application."
However, Obus also said his ruling would not take effect until an appellate court rules on his denial of a motion to appoint a special prosecutor to replace Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance Jr. in the case. The accuser's lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, asked for the special prosecutor Monday in hopes of keeping the case alive, accusing Vance's office of bias against his client. Obus earlier Tuesday turned down the request.
Whatever the appellate court decides, the prosecutors' reversal and their clearly dismal view of the accuser's ability to be a reliable witness left Strauss-Kahn and his attorneys confident that, for the first time since his arrest May 14, he was a free man. Outside the courthouse after the hearing, one of Strauss-Kahn's attorneys, Benjamin Brafman, called it an "extraordinary event" for prosecutors to stand up in a public courtroom and admit that they no longer had a solid case.
"Unless you have been falsely accused of a very serious crime that you did not commit, it is impossible for you to understand or grasp the full measure of relief that Dominique Strauss-Kahn feels today," he said. "This is a horrific nightmare that he and his family have lived through."
Thompson also spoke outside court and repeated his accusations that prosecutors had a double standard because of Strauss-Kahn's wealth and power.
"If Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a bus driver from the South Bronx, do you think prosecutors would have cared about inconsistencies in her stories?" he said, referring to Nafissatou Diallo, who accused Strauss-Kahn of attacking her when she entered his Sofitel suite to clean his room. "We are disappointed ... that Cyrus Vance would deny her day in court."
He said Diallo would pursue a civil complaint against Strauss-Kahn but denied she was in it for the money. "She wasn't thinking about money. She was thinking about her dignity as a woman," he said.
Strauss-Kahn was jailed on May 14 after being taken off a jet that was about to leave New York for Paris and put in jail. He was indicted by a grand jury four days later and released on bail. But his bail was lifted in July and the case began unraveling after prosecutors admitted that the accuser had lied to investigators about several things.
Strauss-Kahn always denied guilt and said the brief sexual encounter between the two of them was consensual. While prosecutors acknowledged that they had no way of knowing whether his account was true, in a motion for dismissal filed Monday, they said Diallo's "pattern" of lies -- including one in which she claimed to have been gang-raped in her native Guinea but then recanted it -- made it impossible to trust her.
Most of the proceedings Tuesday consisted of Asst. Dist. Atty. Joan Illuzzi-Orbon summarizing the reason for abandoning the case. She noted at the beginning, “We did not arrive at nor do we take decisions to recommend dismissal in this or in any cases lightly." But after "collective deliberation, we determined we must take the course of action we are doing today."
She said they were guided in this decision by a requirement to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crimes. Illuzzi-Orbon was careful to note that "whatever the truth" about the encounter between Strauss-Kahn and Diallo in his hotel suite in May, there was not enough evidence to show that it was a forcible encounter.
Then she went on to describe with vehemence that the biggest problem with going forward was that the "complainant was untruthful with us during virtually every substantive interview, despite our repeated entreaties to her to be truthful, about matters great and small."
Most damaging, Illuzzi-Orbon said, was that over the course of two interviews, the accuser gave a "vivid, highly detailed and convincing account of having been raped in her native country which she now admits was false."
"Also devastating was that she had been untruthful to the grand jury about what she did in the aftermath of the assault," Illuzzi-Orbon said.
William Taylor III, one of Strauss-Kahn's attorneys, then stood and said simply: "We do not oppose the motion."
Obus noted that there would be "others who have different views, to say the least," but went on to say that he believed the prosecutor's motion was made in "good faith." "I see no basis to deny" the application for dismissal, Obus said before banging his gavel and declaring the indictment dismissed.
Thompson sat in the front row, grimacing, and walked out immediately after the hearing was over.
-- Geraldine Baum and Tina Susman in New York
Photo: Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his wife, Anne Sinclair, leave court after charges against him were dropped. Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images