Strauss-Kahn to walk free as sex case collapses

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn was set to walk free Tuesday after New York prosecutors said they could no longer prove sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt due to the alleged victim's lies.

At 1530 GMT, Judge Michael Obus was expected to rubber-stamp a motion to dismiss all charges against Strauss-Kahn, who was forced to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund and shelve his French presidential dreams.

The 62-year-old politician, who had been touted to oust President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections, would be free to return to France with millionaire wife Anne Sinclair, although his reputation has been badly sullied.

The sensational case garnered world attention on May 14 when Strauss-Kahn was escorted by New York police from his first class seat on an Air France plane moments before its departure for Paris.

As pictures of the respected international banker, shackled and unshaven, were beamed around the globe, it emerged that he stood accused of the brutal attempted rape of a hotel chambermaid in his plush Manhattan suite.

The case began to unravel weeks later when prosecutors announced that the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, had been caught lying on her asylum application form, including about a gang rape she had suffered back home in Guinea.

In addition, she was said to have discussed Strauss-Kahn's wealth in a telephone conversation with a Guinean friend currently held in a US prison, and to have changed sworn testimony to the grand jury considering the case.

In their 25-page motion filed on Monday asking the judge to dismiss all charges, prosecutors said "their cumulative effect would be devastating."

Diallo was "persistently, and at times inexplicably, untruthful in describing matters of both great and small significance," they said.

"The nature and number of the complainants falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter" at the hotel.

Although there was forensic and medical evidence that suggested a forcible encounter, the assistant district attorneys handling the case, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon and John McConnell, said their motion made no factual findings.

"We simply no longer have confidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty," they said.

In a "he-said, she-said" case, a jury needs to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt and, legal experts say, Diallo's credibility on the witness stand was likely to have been weakened beyond repair.

A lawyer for the 32-year-old Guinean maid hit out angrily after being told of the decision to drop the case on Monday at the prosecutors' offices in Manhattan.

"The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, has denied the right to a woman to get justice in a rape case," Kenneth Thompson said after the brief meeting, which lasted less than 15 minutes.

Thompson accused Vance of having "turned his back" on forensic, medical and other physical evidence.

Diallo, wearing black trousers and a beige jacket, and accompanied by several hulking private security guards, said nothing.

In an interview last month, Diallo recounted the incident, saying Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from a shower to "grab my breasts" and despite her pleas, forced her head down to his penis.

Strauss-Kahn's legal team said the former French politician was "grateful" that New York prosecutors concluded "that this case cannot proceed further."

"We have maintained from the beginning of this case that our client is innocent," said lawyers William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman.

He could now in theory return to frontline French politics, but no one back in France is expecting a prominent role.

"I don't think he can hope for a center stage role in French politics now," said political scientist Gerard Grunberg of the prestigious Sciences-Po school in Paris.

"His public image is much deteriorated and the Socialist Party and its leaders must be mad at him for having missed this moment of opportunity. Neither the public nor the party want to see him back on the frontline."

His legal travails are also far from over.

Diallo has filed a civil suit seeking unspecified damages against Strauss-Kahn. Thompson also plans to ask the judge overseeing the case to appoint a special prosecutor because he believes Vance had mishandled the case, although legal experts said this effort would almost certainly go nowhere.

In another case, 32-year-old writer Tristane Banon has filed a complaint in France alleging the Socialist politician tried to rape her after luring her to a Paris flat in 2003.

Strauss-Kahn has announced his intention to sue Banon for defamation, alleging she invented the story to help publicize her writing.

© 2011 AFP

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