Maid in 'trauma', Strauss-Kahn on prison island

17th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The maid accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in a New York hotel room is suffering "extraordinary" trauma, her lawyer said Tuesday, as the IMF chief remained locked up in notoriously tough Rikers Island jail.

The maid, a 32-year-old woman working at luxury Sofitel in Times Square, has not yet spoken in public. But her lawyer, Jeff Shapiro, told CNN in his first public comments that "the trauma that has taken place in her life is extraordinary."

Strauss-Kahn, who denies all charges, was preparing for a second night at Rikers, an island in the East River off Manhattan where everybody from alleged delinquents to murderers awaits trial.

On Monday a judge refused to grant the head of the International Monetary Fund bail, saying he was a flight risk and might try to escape to France. A grand jury is to convene to decide whether there is enough evidence in the accusations to proceed to trial.

Grand jury proceedings are secret and a spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office would not comment on progress. A new court hearing is due Friday.

Meanwhile, a man who says he is the maid's brother told AFP that she was in floods of tears after the alleged assault.

"Something bad just happened. She was crying. She did not stop crying," said the man, whom AFP did not name to protect the identity of the maid.

Saying that his sister was a Muslim, the man said "she was completely devastated. She was with the doctor and the police when she called me on Saturday afternoon."

He also said that she'd not known who the alleged attacker was. "She didn't know who Dominique Strauss-Kahn was at the time of the incident. I was the one who explained to her," the man said.

His identity and his statements could not be independently confirmed.

In New York's Bronx borough neighbors of the alleged victim spoke of a quiet woman who lives with her daughter and makes the commute from her working class neighborhood to swanky Times Square.

"I know (her) since she moved here about six month (ago). She is nice, a nice girl, hard working woman and I saw her pretty much every day when she goes away to do this job and it is a nice family, her and her daughter, they live together," the building supervisor told AFP.

Whatever happens this week, the bottom has fallen out of Strauss-Kahn's world.

Until Saturday, when the alleged assault took place in his luxury Sofitel suite, the silver-haired Frenchman was a global VIP, enjoying a glamorous lifestyle and dealing with the world's most powerful leaders. He was also widely seen as the man who could unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections.

Now he is accused of a sickening attempt to force himself on an immigrant maid who allegedly entered his 28th floor room to clean, then found herself chased and assaulted by a naked man. He faces a long prison sentence if convicted.

In France, Strauss-Kahn continues to enjoy some backing from supporters circulating conspiracy theories that he may have been set up. Many others have chosen to remain silent on the hugely embarrassing affair.

However on Tuesday, Prime Minister Francois Fillon was quoted saying there could be "no excuse" if the allegations were true. It would be "a very serious act," he said.

Fillon was the most senior French politician to be quoted explicitly outlining a position on the alleged crime.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have promised a "vigorous" defense.

In remarks at Monday's bail hearing the chief line of defense centered on assertions that Strauss-Kahn did not try to flee the country, as alleged, and that immediately after the time of the alleged crime he went to have lunch.

This, lawyers say, indicates that he had nothing to hide and was not in a panic, as police and prosecutors have suggested.

Another possible defense, the New York Post tabloid reports, is that he may have had a consensual sexual encounter with the alleged victim. The Post quoted a "source close to the defense" saying "there may well have been consent."

In court, lawyer Ben Brafman said that the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter," but he did not elaborate and did not suggest consent. Prosecutors, however, say they have physical evidence, including a doctor's exam made immediately after the incident, indicating attempted rape.

On Tuesday, William Taylor, another defense attorney, would not confirm the Post story. "I don't have any comment. I don't even know who that is," he said, referring to the "source."


© 2011 AFP

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