Strauss-Kahn claims immunity in US civil case
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn sought dismissal of a US civil case on Monday, claiming immunity from prosecution and saying the hotel maid's "false" sexual assault claims had hampered his efforts to right the global economy.
Criminal charges were dropped in August when prosecutors lost faith in the credibility of maid Nafissatou Diallo, but she is pursuing her civil case for undisclosed monetary damages from the French one-time presidential hopeful.
Strauss-Kahn did not claim immunity in the criminal case as the alleged assault happened while he was staying in New York in a personal capacity, but his lawyers appeared to think this was not a factor in the civil courts.
"As managing director, which is the chief executive position at the IMF, Mr. Strauss-Kahn enjoyed absolute immunity from civil suit," said a motion filed by his lawyers at a court in the Bronx in New York.
The motion said it made no difference Strauss-Kahn was no longer head of the IMF when Diallo filed her civil case August 8, saying: "Mr. Strauss-Kahn's absolute immunity persisted until he was able to leave the United States."
Strauss-Kahn went on the attack in the filing, accusing Diallo of imperiling his efforts, at the helm of the International Monetary Fund, to rescue the world economy at a crucial time after the financial crisis.
"Under Mr. Strauss-Kahn's leadership, the IMF was actively engaged in responding to the global economic crisis on several fronts in the spring of 2011," it said.
"As a direct result of (the) plaintiff's false charge of sexual assault, the IMF's ability to serve its critical function in the international economy was significantly impaired at a time of worldwide financial crisis and instability."
Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign as managing director of IMF when he was arrested in May and charged with the sexual assault and attempted rape of Diallo in his suite at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan.
The French economist walked free late last month when a criminal court judge dismissed the charges against him after prosecutors said they could not pursue the case because of her repeated lying.
DNA evidence indicated that a sexual encounter did occur between the two, but Strauss-Kahn's defense team insists it was consensual.
Diallo, a 32-year-old Guinean immigrant, maintains her allegations and filed the civil suit against Strauss-Kahn, seeking unspecified damages for what she called a "sadistic" attack.
Her lawyers, Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor, reacted with scorn Monday to Strauss-Kahn's attempt to have the case dismissed and said there was no way he would be granted immunity.
"Like his publicity stunt last week in which he was interviewed by a friend of his wife, this baseless motion is another deserate attempt to avoid having to answer for the deplorable acts he committed against Ms. Diallo," they said. "Strauss-Kahn's claim of diplomatic immunity will clearly fail because: (1) he is not a diplomat; (2) according to his own story he was in New York on 'personal' business; (3) he, not the IMF, paid for his room at the Sofitel; and (4) he was obviously acting in his personal capacity when he violently attacked Ms. Diallo."
Legal experts also said the judge was unlikely to grant Strauss-Kahn immunity.
"To me, even if they can persuade the court that there was immunity while he was employed by the IMF, it is unlikely that they will be able to persuade the judge that the immunity continued even after he resigned from that position," Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor, told AFP.
Strauss-Kahn, who was seen as a frontrunner in next year's French presidential election before the sensational charges were brought against him, returned to France on September 4.
The former French finance minister, whose political career is now in tatters, broke his silence in a prime-time French television interview on September 18.
Over 13 million people tuned in to watch the interview in which Strauss-Kahn made an admission of "a moral failing."
"What happened involved neither violence nor constraint: no criminal act," he insisted.
Strauss-Kahn still faces investigation in France over a separate claim by a young French author, Tristane Banon, that he tried to rape her in 2003.
The Socialist politician has denied any wrongdoing and lodged a countersuit for defamation.
A source close to the inquiry told AFP on condition of anonymity that Strauss-Kahn told police he made a pass at Banon but did not try to attack her.
© 2011 AFP