New York prosecutors set to drop Strauss-Kahn case 22 Aug 11

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn smiles as he departs a hearing at the New York State Supreme Courthouse in New York in this July 1, 2011 file photo.

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Prosecutors on Monday appeared set to drop sexual assault charges against former IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a stunning reversal in the case against a man who many had seen as the next president of France.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office will recommend to a judge that the case be dismissed after they lost faith in the accuser, a 32-year-old hotel maid from Guinea, due to lies she told about her past, New York news media reported.

Strauss-Kahn, who has denied the allegations, was the leading contender for the April 2012 presidential elections until Nafissatou Diallo accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex on May 14 at New York’s Sofitel Hotel.

He was arrested and forced to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund a few days later.

Diallo was due to meet with prosecutors at 3 p.m., and they were expected to inform her the case was being dropped, said Kenneth Thompson, the woman’s lawyer.

Strauss-Kahn was due to appear in court on Tuesday, at which point the dismissal of charges could be a mere formality if prosecutors make public their decision on Monday.

Diallo’s lawyers said they would request a special prosecutor to pursue the criminal case, though legal experts said such a move would have little chance of succeeding.

But nor would Strauss-Kahn be totally in the clear. He still faces a civil lawsuit filed by Diallo on August 8 and a complaint from French writer Tristane Banon who said he tried to rape her during a 2003 interview. Authorities in Paris are considering whether to press charges in that case.

Prosecutors initially trumpeted Diallo as a credible witness and her testimony helped convince a grand jury to formally charge Strauss-Kahn, but the case has teetered since late June when prosecutors disclosed that Diallo fabricated a story about being gang-raped for her U.S. asylum application and lied about other aspects of her past.

MORE LIES

That revelation threatened her credibility as a witness and led prosecutors to agree to release Strauss-Kahn, 62, from house arrest, though he remains barred from leaving the country. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The New York Times, citing a person briefed on the matter, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has decided to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.

The New York Post, citing two sources briefed on the document Vance’s office has prepared, said prosecutors would detail even more lies she told during the investigation.

“There are going to be bombshells,” the Post quoted one source as saying.

Diallo’s credibility was harmed by her failing to disclose all of her past inconsistencies promptly and willingly, the Times reported, citing a law-enforcement official involved in the investigation.

“We had to drag the details of the lies out of her over weeks,” the Times quoted the official as saying.

“Every time she was confronted with her lies, she would blame someone else — someone told her to say this for asylum, someone else took advantage of her bank accounts, someone else did the taxes,” the official said.

Thompson, her lawyer, has acknowledged problems Diallo’s past but said her story about what happened in the hotel room never wavered — that Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from the bathroom and sexually assaulted her.

His defense lawyers have suggested any sexual encounter was consensual.

Erin Duggan, the spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, declined to comment, as did Chief Assistant District Attorney Daniel Alonso, the office’s top deputy.

Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s attorney, declined to comment Sunday on the reports.

Though Strauss-Kahn is free to return to French politics, his image was damaged and the Socialist party would have to make an exception to allow him into the presidential race at this late date.

Francois Hollande, now the leading Socialist candidate for the 2012 elections after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, said it was up to the former finance minister to decide if he would compete in party primaries if the case is dropped.

A poll released in July showed two-thirds of French people do not want him to be a candidate.