Strauss-Kahn in court amid doubts on sex case

1st July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn returns to a Manhattan court Friday for an unexpected appearance amid a report that said the sexual assault case against him was on the verge of collapse.

The New York Times, citing unnamed law enforcement sources close to the case, said prosecutors now do not believe much of the story told by the French politician's accuser -- a Guinea-born hotel maid -- and that she had repeatedly lied to them since the May 14 alleged attack.

The newspaper earlier said the unscheduled court appearance would alter the strict bail conditions imposed on Strauss-Kahn. But it later reported the case was in jeopardy and that lawyers were discussing whether to dismiss the felony charges.

"It is a mess, a mess on both sides," one official told the daily, indicating that prosecutors would tell the judge they "have problems with the case."

A dismissal could be a major shock in the case, which dealt a devastating blow to the political hopes of the French politician once seen as a serious contender for the presidency, and prompted his resignation as head of the International Monetary Fund.

The Times said under one scenario being discussed, Strauss-Kahn could be released on his own recognizance, and freed from house arrest, based on the likelihood that the serious criminal charges against him will not be sustained.

It also said the district attorney's office may ask Strauss-Kahn to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, but that his lawyers would contest such a move.

Among the discoveries, one official told the newspaper, are issues involving the asylum application of the 32-year-old housekeeper, and possible links to criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering.

Officials declined to reveal the reason for Friday's hearing.

"No details about this appearance will be available until the defendant appears in court tomorrow," said the statement from the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

The former French finance minister had not been expected back in court until July 18.

Strauss-Kahn had posted $1 million bail and a $5 million bond when he was released in May, and agreed to remain under house arrest with an ankle monitor.

Earlier Thursday, French newspaper Liberation, citing Strauss-Kahn's defense lawyers, said he was likely to challenge the legality of the identification line-up that took place a day after his May 14 arrest, where the then-IMF director had been picked out by the alleged victim.

Strauss-Kahn had spent days in New York's tough Rikers Island jail awaiting the bail package agreement.

Legal experts noted Thursday that a procedural error in the case would be difficult to prove, but could strengthen the defense argument that police had made errors in the hours after his arrest.

Strauss-Kahn, a French national, has denied all seven charges, including trying to rape the woman and sexually assaulting her when she came to clean his hotel suite in a luxury Manhattan hotel. He has been awaiting trial under house arrest.

The French politician resigned from the IMF shortly after his arrest, setting off a battle for the leadership of the Washington-based multilateral lender. Earlier this week, the Fund chose French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as the new managing director.

Strauss-Kahn is awaiting trial in his luxury rental house in Manhattan's TriBeCa neighborhood.

© 2011 AFP

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