Strauss-Kahn maid files civil suit in NY

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The maid accusing French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape filed a civil suit Monday in New York alleging a "sadistic attack" and seeking unspecified compensation.

The civil suit was filed as prosecutors deliberated over whether to drop sex assault charges against Strauss-Kahn, or take the former head of the International Monetary Fund and powerful French figure to trial.

The 17-page court filing alleged a "violent and sadistic attack" in the Manhattan Sofitel room where Nafissatou Diallo went to clean Strauss-Kahn's luxury room on May 14.

No specific amount of money or other punishment was named in the suit, which referred only to "an award of damages in an amount to be determined at trial, plus prejudgment interest" and other unspecified damages.

The suit alleged "sexual assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress upon Ms Diallo, whom he sexually assaulted as she attempted to do her job as a housekeeper."

Strauss-Kahn, the suit said, "intentionally, brutally and violently sexually assaulted Ms Diallo and in the process humiliated, degraded, violated and robbed Ms Diallo of her dignity as a woman."

The ensuing emotional and mental distress was such that "she may never recover."

The suit requested a jury trial in the Bronx neighborhood of New York. There was no immediate response from lawyers for Strauss-Kahn, who is living in the city on bail while awaiting prosecutors' decision.

His next scheduled court appearance in the criminal case is August 23.

A civil suit was always expected. Only the timing was in question.

Diallo's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, says a civil suit could be his client's only way to seek justice, given prosecutors' hesitation.

The district attorney's office has publicly called into question Diallo's credibility amid revelations that she lied on her application form to gain asylum in the United States from her native Guinea.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Strauss-Kahn have attacked Diallo as seeking to pursue the wealthy French VIP's money all along.

But Thompson argues that his client risks being abandoned by prosecutors and that a jury trial in civil court is her only choice.

As part of a fight back against negative reports about her credibility, Diallo took the unusual step of going public last month with media interviews and a press conference to present her side of the story. Alleged victims in sex crime cases rarely seek to reveal their identity.

The burden of proof in a civil trial is significantly lower than the near watertight "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard that has to be met in criminal courts. That could mean that even if Strauss-Kahn is let off by prosecutors, he will still face a bruising jury trial in the Bronx.

Alternatively, he could, through his lawyers, seek to pay Diallo in an out-of-court settlement.

© 2011 AFP

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