Accuser issues shake Strauss-Kahn case
Friday, July 1, 2011
NEW YORK (AP) — Questions about the credibility of a hotel housekeeper who has accused former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn of raping her are leading prosecutors to seek a substantial reduction in his bail, a person familiar with the case said Thursday.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public in court, told The Associated Press that prosecutors have raised issues about the accuser’s credibility in the case against Strauss-Kahn, but would not elaborate on what those issues were.
A separate law enforcement official who is familiar with the case, but not authorized to speak about it publicly, told the AP that the issue was not necessarily about the rape accusation itself, but about troubling questions surrounding the alleged victim’s background that could damage her credibility on the witness stand. The official refused to elaborate.
The New York Police Department, which investigated the case, declined comment. The woman’s lawyer did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Strauss-Kahn has been under armed guard in a Manhattan townhouse after posting a total of $6 million in cash bail and bond. He denies the allegations.
The New York Times first reported that investigators uncovered major inconsistences in the woman’s account of her background, citing two law enforcement officials. One of the officials told the Times that the woman has repeatedly lied since making the initial allegation May 14.
The discoveries include issues stemming from the asylum application of the 32-year-old woman, who is from Guinea, and possible links to criminal activities such as drug dealing and money laundering, one of the officials told the newspaper. The Times reported that senior prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers are discussing whether to dismiss the felony charges against him.
Another person familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, said earlier Thursday that Strauss-Kahn may get his pricey bail and house arrest arrangement eased in the case at a court hearing scheduled for Friday. The person declined to detail what the new bail arrangements might be.
Strauss-Kahn lawyer William W. Taylor would say only that the hearing was to review the bail plan. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment.
Strauss-Kahn was held without bail for nearly a week after his May arrest. His lawyers ultimately persuaded a judge to release him by agreeing to extensive — and expensive — conditions, including an ankle monitor, surveillance cameras and armed guards. He can leave for only for court, weekly religious services and visits to doctors and his lawyers, and prosecutors must be notified at least six hours before he goes anywhere.
The security measures were estimated to cost him about $200,000 a month, on top of the $50,000-a-month rent on a town house in trendy TriBeCa. He settled there after a hasty and fraught househunt: A plan to rent an apartment in a tony building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side fell through after residents complained about the hubbub as reporters and police milled around the building.
Under New York law, judges base bail decisions on factors including defendants’ characters, financial resources and criminal records, as well as the strength of the case against them — all intended to help gauge how likely they are to flee if released.
Defendants and prosecutors can raise the issue of bail at any point in a case. It’s common, if asking a judge to revisit a bail decision, to argue that new information or new proposed conditions change how one or more of the factors should be viewed.
The maid told police that Strauss-Kahn chased her down a hallway in his $3,000-a-night suite in the Sofitel hotel, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex before she broke free.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have said the encounter wasn’t forcible, and that they have unreleased information that could “gravely undermine the credibility” of the housekeeper. The defense was using private investigators to aggressively check out the victim’s background and her story.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said the detectives investigating the case found the maid’s story believable.
“Obviously, the credibility of the complainant is a factor in cases of this nature,” Kelly said in May. “One of the things they’re trained to look for, and what was reported to me early on, was that the complainant was credible.”
The woman’s lawyer has said she is prepared to testify despite a “smear campaign” against her.
The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex crime cases unless they agree to it.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was in New York on a personal trip. He left the hotel shortly after the alleged assault — to have lunch with a relative, his attorneys have said.
During his initial bail hearings, prosecutors noted that Strauss-Kahn was arrested on a Paris-bound plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and that they could not compel his return from France if he fled. His lawyers have underscored that it was a long-planned flight, and they’ve said he wants to return to court to clear his name.
He resigned his IMF post after his arrest.
Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Colleen Long contributed to this report.