A New York judge has formally dropped sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, bringing the highly publicized criminal complaint against him to a close. Prosecutors had filed for dismissal because of concerns that his accuser, a housekeeper at a New York hotel, had credibility issues. Prosecutors told the court she “not been truthful on matters great and small.”
Strauss-Kahn had been accused of attacking Nafissatou Diallo in May at the Sofitel Hotel in New York. Despite the dismissal of criminal charges, she has also filed a civil claim.
The case sparked controversy, with many in France criticizing the United States’ justice system and expressing outrage over images of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs. Strauss-Kahn, who had been considered a contender France’s next presidential election, stepped down from his job at the IMF while in jail.
Diallo had previously said on an asylum application that she was raped in Guinea, which turned out to be false. Prosecutors also pointed to discussions with another party that referred to Strauss-Kahn’s financial assets, raising the questions about financial motives.
French authorities are also investigating charges brought by a French journalist that Strauss-Kahn tried to assault her during a 2003 interview.
Bloomberg TV’s Sara Eisen spoke on Monday’s NewsHour broadcast about what would happen if Strauss-Kahn’s charges were dismissed, including the future of Diallo’s civil suit against Strauss-Kahn:
SARA EISEN: [I]n 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.
Updated 2:15 p.m. ET | An appeals court rejected a request for a special prosecutor and upheld the earlier decision. Strauss-Kahn is now free.
Updated 3 p.m. ET | Among Strauss-Kahn’s supporters, there was a sense of relief and happiness that not only had the charges been dropped but that he had been freed from the American justice system, which they consider much different than the system in France, said Mildrade Cherfils, a GlobalPost correspondent in Paris, after the judge’s verdict.
“When he was first arrested there was an air of this gross miscarriage of justice to see a man of his stature doing the ‘perp walk’ and the presumption that innocence doesn’t exist in America,” said Cherfils. But other members of the public were shocked by the dropping of the charges in New York and felt the celebratory mood discounted the facts of the case, she said.
“Even though the charges can’t go forward, his reputation has been tarnished,” she added. And some newspaper editorials in France said he had no one to blame but himself for what happened.
Now, all eyes are on what Strauss-Kahn will do next and who his Socialist Party will select instead of him as its candidate to challenge incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy in the upcoming elections. The Socialist Party reportedly is meeting over the weekend to come up with a game plan.
Photo by Getty Images