Judge grants Strauss-Kahn more time for US civil case

17th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A New York judge has given lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn more time to prepare their defense in a civil suit brought by a hotel maid who accused the former IMF chief of sexual assault.

"Motion... is granted," judge Douglas McKeon said in a ruling obtained by AFP on Friday. Strauss-Kahn's attorneys now have until September 26 to respond to the complaint filed on August 8 by the maid, Nafissatou Diallo.

"At the time of the commencement of this action, defendant was under criminal indictment, and understandably, focused on the criminal charges against him."

Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign as managing director of the International Monetary Fund 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.

But late last month, the French economist walked free when a criminal court judge dismissed the charges against him after prosecutors said they could not pursue the case because of his accuser's lack of credibility.

DNA evidence indicated that a sexual encounter did occur between the two, but Strauss-Kahn's defense team insists that 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.

Strauss-Kahn says he had consensual sex with Diallo, and his attorney Benjamin Brafman described the incident as a "momentary lapse of judgment that was not criminal."

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 is due to break his silence in a prime-time French television interview on Sunday, his political future still up in the air.

Diallo's lawyers, Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor, said in a statement that people in France and around the world "deserve to hear Mr Strauss-Kahn answer pointed questions about his conduct on May 14."

"If Mr Strauss-Kahn thinks that people in France will really believe that he was able to convince Ms Diallo, who had never met him before and did not know that he was in the room, to engage in sexual acts with him within a matter of minutes, then he should describe how that happened," the attorneys said.

"We suspect that he will not do so because any story that he describes will not be plausible.

"If Mr Strauss-Kahn does not answer any questions during the interview about the incident involving Ms Diallo, the interview will simply be a public relations stunt."

Strauss-Kahn still faces investigation in France over a 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 Friday on condition of anonymity that Strauss-Kahn told police he made a pass at Banon but did not try to attack her.

© 2011 AFP

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