JEFFREY BROWN: The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn took a surprise turn today into legal limbo. It gave new hope to the former head of the International Monetary Fund, whose career collapsed when he was arrested in May.
Strauss-Kahn walked out of a New York City courtroom this afternoon, free from house arrest, but still accused of attempted rape and other charges, at least for now. During the hearing, it became clear that prosecutors are rethinking their case, based on mounting questions about the accuser, an immigrant hotel housekeeper from Guinea.
WOMAN: Although it is clear that the strength of the case has been affected by the substantial credibility issues relating to the complaining witness, we are not moving to dismiss the case at this time.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, attorney for Dominique Strauss-Kahn: The defense moves for the exoneration of bail under the current conditions and for Mr. Strauss-Kahn's release on his own recognizance, with the condition that his passport remain surrendered.
JUDGE MICHAEL OBUS, New York State Unified Court System: I understand that the circumstances surrounding this case, from the viewpoint of the parties, have changed substantially, and I agree. There will be no rush to judgment in this case. The people will, I have no doubt, continue to investigate and reexamine the matter, as is appropriate. And I expect that the process will go on, as hopefully it should, in a manner that is fair as it can be to all of the concerned parties.
JEFFREY BROWN: The New York Times and others reported that investigators now believe the accuser lied about elements of her background, including her association with an imprisoned drug dealer and part of her account about the sequence of events after the alleged attack.
Strauss-Kahn's attorneys said those reports, and today's hearing outcome, are a great relief.
BENJAMIN BRAFMAN, attorney for Dominique Strauss-Kahn: At each appearance in the last six weeks, we asked you and we asked the world not to rush to judgment in this case. And now I think you can understand why.
We believed from the beginning that this case wasn't what it appeared to be, and we are absolutely convinced that, while today is a first giant step in the right direction, the next step will lead to a complete dismissal of the charges.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ken Thompson, a lawyer for the accuser, fired back that a crime was still committed and is supported by the physical evidence.
KENNETH THOMPSON, attorney for the accuser: The victim, to this very day, maintains that he sexually assaulted her in that room, knowing very well to this very day that the forensic evidence shows that, knowing very well to this very day that they have a picture of her bruised vagina, knowing very well to this very day that she suffered a tear to her ligament when he threw her down to the ground, and knowing well to this very day that they have a pair of stockings that were ripped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
JEFFREY BROWN: Thompson also demanded that prosecutors continue to push forward with the case.
KENNETH THOMPSON: We don't have confidence that they are ever going to put Dominique Strauss-Kahn on trial. So, the victim will stand before you and tell you because she said, I will go to my grave knowing the truth, knowing what this man did to me.
JEFFREY BROWN: For his part, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance insisted he is in no rush to reach any final conclusion about Strauss-Kahn or his accuser.
CYRUS VANCE, Manhattan District attorney: Today's proceedings didn't dismiss the indictment or any of the charges against the defendant. Our prosecutors from the Manhattan DA's office will continue their investigation into these alleged crimes, and will do so until we have uncovered all relevant facts. The vindication of the rights of sex crime victims is among the highest priorities of this office.
JEFFREY BROWN: The charges last May had dashed Strauss-Kahn's standing as a leading presidential contender in France. Today, supporters said it's unclear if he can reclaim that status.
LIONEL JOSPIN, former French Socialist Party candidate: (through translator): It's a thunderclap that this has produced, but it's not like when this first happened, because the fact remains that, even if the charges against him collapse, he will still have already been thrown to the lions.
JEFFREY BROWN: Strauss-Kahn's next scheduled court date is July 18, and until then, he is free to move around the United States.