Prosecutors ask judge to dismiss Strauss-Kahn case

23rd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prosecutors filed a motion Monday to dismiss all the sexual assault and attempted rape charges against former IMF chief and one-time French presidential favorite Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

A judge was expected to accept the dismissal of recommendation at a hearing on Tuesday, bringing to an end the three-month-long criminal case against Strauss-Kahn that has humiliated the French politician and crippled his career.

"We respectfully recommend that the indictment be dismissed," prosecutors said in a motion filed to Judge Michael Obus after weeks of agonizing over the credibility flaws of his accuser, hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo.

A lawyer for the 32-year-old Guinean immigrant hit out angrily after being told of the decision during a meeting at the prosecutors' offices in Manhattan, where a media scrum and hundreds of onlookers greeted their arrival.

"The Manhattan attorney, Cyrus Vance, has denied the right to a woman to get justice in a rape case," her lawyer Kenneth Thompson said. Vance, he said, has "turned his back" on forensic, medical and other physical evidence.

"If the Manhattan District Attorney, who is elected to protect our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our wives and our loved ones, is not going to stand up for them when they're raped or sexually assaulted, then who will?"

Strauss-Kahn's legal team, on the other hand, said the former French politician was "grateful" the New York prosecution team had concluded "that this case cannot proceed further."

"We have maintained from the beginning of this case that our client is innocent," said lawyers William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman.

Wearing black trousers and a beige jacket, Diallo -- who says Strauss-Kahn forced her into oral sex and tried to rape her -- arrived for the meeting protected by bodyguards.

If the judge formally dismisses the charges, Strauss-Kahn will be free to return to France, where his May 14 arrest in New York and brief imprisonment before being freed on bail caused a political uproar.

The case has captivated international attention after Diallo accused the IMF chief of forcing her into oral sex when she went to clean his luxury hotel room three months ago.

Not only did Strauss-Kahn have to resign as head of the IMF after his arrest, but he had to abandon what was expected to be a successful challenge of President Nicolas Sarkozy in upcoming elections.

The case has been one of the most closely watched in New York in many years, pitting the privileged, super-wealthy Frenchman against an illiterate Guinean housemaid employed by the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan.

Initially, prosecutors and police said there was strong evidence of a forced sexual encounter, backed by DNA and traces of Strauss-Kahn's sperm.

But Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty and his defense team, led by one of America's most famous trial lawyers, Brafman, said any encounter would only have been consensual.

The case began to unravel weeks later when prosecutors announced that Diallo had been caught lying on her asylum application form, including about a gang rape she said she suffered back in her home country of Guinea.

In addition, she was said to have discussed Strauss-Kahn's wealth in a telephone conversation with a Guinean friend currently held in a US prison.

Prosecutors would need to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt in criminal court and, legal experts say, the problems with Diallo's past may have weakened her credibility on the witness stand beyond repair.

Even if Strauss-Kahn walks free, his own reputation has suffered gravely and Diallo has filed a civil case against him, seeking unspecified damages, alleging a "sadistic" sex attack.

Thompson planned to ask the judge overseeing the case to appoint a special prosecutor, because he believes Vance had mishandled the case, but legal experts said his efforts were likely to be in vain.

With the sexual assault charges against him dropped, Strauss-Kahn could in theory return to frontline French politics, but no one back in France expected a return in force.

"I don't think he can hope for a center stage role in French politics now," said political scientist Gerard Grunberg of the prestigious Sciences-Po school in Paris.

"His public image is much deteriorated and the Socialist Party and its leaders must be mad at him for having missed this moment of opportunity. Neither the public nor the party want to see him back on the frontline."

Although Diallo appears on the cusp of losing her criminal legal battle, she could still win substantial damages in a civil suit.

In a sign that she did not intend to let the matter rest and that Strauss-Kahn's legal travails could be far from over, her French lawyer was to file a separate complaint on Tuesday.

The complaint is against a deputy mayor in Sarcelles, near Paris, accusing the official of pressuring a woman who claims to have had a liaison with Strauss-Kahn not to give testimony.

© 2011 AFP

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