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What Happens Next if Strauss-Kahn’s Charges Are Dropped?

August 22, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Prosecutors in New York on Monday requested that sexual assault charges against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn be dropped in light of doubts about his accuser's credibility. Hari Sreenivasan discusses the case -- and what could happen next -- with Bloomberg TV's Sara Eisen.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Prosecutors in New York today indicated that they will drop charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn following more doubts about his accuser’s credibility.

Hari Sreenivasan has our update.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The former head of the International Monetary Fund was arrested in May, after a hotel maid accused him of sexually assaulting her when she arrived to clean his room.

Defense attorneys asserted all along that any sexual contact was consensual. But the case began to unwind when prosecutors reportedly lost faith in the accuser, a single mother from Guinea who investigators found had made a number of false statements and told inconsistent versions of events following the alleged attack.

Prosecutors are expected to officially make their recommendations to the judge tomorrow in Manhattan.

For more on all this, we turn to Sara Eisen, who has been reporting on the case for Bloomberg TV.

Thanks for joining us.

SARA EISEN, Bloomberg Television: Good to see you. Thanks for having me.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, let’s start a little bit about today and then kind of maybe how we got here.

The prosecution’s recommendation to drop charges seems almost the opposite of how strong they said their case was in the beginning. What happened?

SARA EISEN: Right. Initially, it seemed like an open-and-shut case.

There was certainly a turning point on July 1, when it was revealed that there were credibility issues with the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape and sexual assault. After that started to unravel, today, very much expected move by the prosecution, filing papers with a judge to dismiss all criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

That includes the attempted rape. It includes the sexual assault. In the papers filed in court, the prosecution, led by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., said that it was doubting the nature and number of falsehoods from the complainant which led them to question her credit in recounting the encounter that happened on May 14, she claims a forcible and non-consensual sexual encounter.

Also in the paperwork, the prosecution claimed that the physical and forensic evidence pointed to the fact that there was a hurried sexual encounter, but, independently, it doesn’t substantiate the fact that her claims were that it was non-consensual and that it was forcible.

So, there we go. It was a long journey that got us here — it started May 14 — a journey that had Dominique Strauss-Kahn spending four nights in Rikers Island initially, when he was denied bail. Then he was on house arrest, spending $200,000 a month for security in New York City, freed from house arrest on July 1, when that shocker came that her credibility was in question.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

SARA EISEN: And here we go back to court tomorrow, where the charges should officially be dropped.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, the attorneys for Diallo also filed a motion today. They’re asking for a special prosecutor. They cited abuse of confidence, unfair treatment, bias and prejudice.

So, when they stand in front of the judge tomorrow, what’s the likelihood that they get what they want?

SARA EISEN: Well, experts that we talk to say that there’s not a very strong likelihood that they will get what they want, and that is a special prosecutor in this case. That is usually made in circumstances where there’s a personal conflict of interest with the prosecution.

That didn’t happen in this case, but it certainly is consistent with Kenneth Thompson, the lawyer Ms. Diallo’s statements over the past few weeks. He’s been very vocal, criticizing Cyrus Vance’s office, saying that they have not been doing all they can to defend her.

In fact, they issued a very strong statement — he did, Kenneth Thompson — very briefly after a meeting today between him, his client and Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office, the prosecution team, in which the prosecution briefed them on what would happen in court tomorrow, the statement from Kenneth Thompson saying, “Cyrus Vance has denied the right of a woman to get justice in a rape case.”

And this has been his storyline throughout, questioning the Manhattan district attorney. So it doesn’t come at surprise that he’s requested a special prosecution, though it seems unlikely that that will be fulfilled.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Take us back a bit now on how we got here. It seems Diallo’s lawyers were almost preparing for something like this.

Catch us up a bit on the steps that they took since Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from jail.

SARA EISEN: Well, Kenneth Thompson issued a very memorable, graphic account of what had happened the night of May 14 after that July 1 court hearing.

I was there at the court hearing. It was a big defeat for them in many ways, because her entire credibility was questioned after it was revealed that she had lied to a grand jury about several events that transpired, including what happened, an inconsistency after the encounter on May 14, where she originally told a grand jury that she was hovering in the hallway, and then she told her bosses when it was revealed later that she in fact went to another room to clean it, then came back to Strauss-Kahn’s room before then telling a boss, inconsistencies, falsehoods that are described in the prosecution’s documents today.

That was revealed July 1. Kenneth Thompson has been very vocal since then in his criticism for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. And, in fact, she, the maid, the accuser of Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, has sued Strauss-Kahn in a civil case. That is in New York state court in the Bronx.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, if the judge accepts the prosecution’s recommendations to drop all the charges against Strauss-Kahn, what happens to the civil suit?

SARA EISEN: Well, they’re unrelated, so the civil suit continues.

And, you know, we have been thinking with a lot of experts over at Bloomberg. And it’s been referenced that you can look back at the O.J. Simpson case for an example of another high-profile case where a criminal jury acquitted him of the charges, but, in fact, a civil jury found him guilty.

So, that still is a possibility. Now, Ms. Diallo has sued Dominique Strauss-Kahn for unspecified monetary damages, so clearly here this is a financial lawsuit, more so than his freedom, which he should get if these criminal cases — criminal charges do in fact go away, as they appear to be.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Sara Eisen of Bloomberg TV, thanks so much for joining us.

SARA EISEN: Thank you.