Strauss-Kahn lawyers claim secret info on maid
Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers clashed angrily with prosecutors Wednesday after claiming to possess secret information that could "gravely undermine" the New York hotel maid accusing the former IMF chief of attempted rape.
The pretrial skirmish revealed tension ahead of a June 6 court hearing when Strauss-Kahn, 62, is expected to plead not guilty to charges of carrying out a brutal sex attack on the woman cleaning his suite in a luxury Manhattan hotel.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the District Attorney's office, defense attorneys William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman complained about "continual" police leaks of evidence tying their client to the alleged crime.
Then, in a stark threat, the lawyers write: "We could now release substantial information that in our view would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in this case."
That suddenly put the spotlight on the complainant, a 32-year-old West African immigrant who'd cleaned rooms at the Sofitel hotel for three years and accuses Strauss-Kahn of chasing her naked, then forcing her into oral sex.
She has not been seen or heard from in public since the May 14 alleged crime and is believed to be under close protection.
The DA's office shot back in its own letter Thursday, saying: "We are aware of no such information."
"We were troubled that you chose to inject into the public record your claim that you possess information that might negatively impact the case," said Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, who has been newly appointed to bolster the prosecution team.
"If you really do possess the kind of information you suggest that you do, we trust you will forward it immediately to the District Attorney's Office."
The defense letter complains to District Attorney Cyrus Vance that leaked information is feeding a "media frenzy."
The leaks have been "recklessly injected into the public arena with the potential of permanently prejudicing potential jurors who are being exposed to these materials on a daily basis."
The letter asks Vance to stop the media leaks.
"We are requesting that you use whatever resources are appropriate to stop further leaking immediately," the attorneys ask, also demanding that they be given access to any evidence already mentioned in the anonymous leaks.
They said they would repeat the demands formally on June 6 before Judge Michael Obus.
In its response, the District Attorney's office said it was also concerned by the leaks and had "communicated our position in that regard to members of law enforcement outside of this office."
However, the prosecution turned down the demand for quick release of evidence, insisting that this would be forthcoming in the standard pretrial procedure known as discovery.
The defense lawyers' letter, which is also copied to Obus, mentions in particular a New York Times report detailing the police narrative of how the alleged crime unfolded in the Manhattan Sofitel suite occupied by Strauss-Kahn on May 14.
It also mentions leaked reports about the discovery of DNA traces from Strauss-Kahn on the maid's clothing.
"We can cite to dozens of other prejudicial articles and news stories that have appeared in recent days in which confidential police sources have provided a wide array of prejudicial information about Mr Strauss-Kahn, including information which even if true, would never be admissible in any court."
Strauss-Kahn moved late Wednesday into a rented luxury townhouse in Manhattan where he is living under strict house arrest until his trial. He was freed on a $6 million bail provided that he be guarded around the clock and wear a GPS monitoring device.
© 2011 AFP