"Law & Order" could not have produced a script with more dramatic turnarounds. As former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest Friday, the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a New York hotel room in May became the main focus of public scrutiny. To counter the wave of allegations now circulating around the 32-year-old immigrant maid from Guinea, her attorney has accused Manhattan prosecutors of sullying her reputation to distance themselves from the damaged case against Strauss-Kahn.
"We believe that the district attorney [Cyrus Vance] is laying the foundation to dismiss this case," charged the accuser's attorney, Kenneth Thompson, in a talk with journalists after Strauss-Kahn's bail hearing in a New York courtroom today. "Anyone can see that."
In a brief nine minute hearing today, Strauss-Kahn was granted release from house arrest without bail. But the court is retaining his passport, and the criminal case against him still stands, at least for now.
Weaknesses in the case were exposed in a stunning New York Times report Thursday night describing prosecutors' doubts about the credibility of the accuser.
Thompson acknowledged that his client had "made mistakes," but insisted that she is telling the truth about the alleged assault. In her account, she was the victim of a sexual assault in Strauss-Kahn's hotel room May 14--and Thompson insisted that prosecutors have physical evidence to support her version of events. He also accused Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance of leaking information to the New York Times to discredit his client in a bid to get the case dismissed.
Still, prosecutors had uncovered major discrepancies in several aspects of the accuser's accounts of her background and circumstances, the New York Times reported Thursday. Among them, discrepancies in her accounts of what information she had put on her U.S. asylum application, and her apparent later admission that some of the information on the application was not true.
Prosecutors also obtained a recording of a phone conversation the woman had with a man imprisoned for possession of 400 pounds of marijuana that took place within a day of the alleged assault. In the conversation, she and the man reportedly discussed the possible benefit of pursuing charges in the case against Strauss-Kahn. Prosecutors had also reportedly found that over the past two years, as much as $100,000 had been deposited into the woman's bank accounts, deposited by several individuals including the imprisoned man. The woman also apparently had several telephones, but insisted to prosecutors she had only one.
Some of their findings were contained in a letter from Vance's office to defense attorneys for Strauss-Kahn, which you can read here.
Thompson said he had not yet heard the recording of the phone call between his client and the imprisoned man. But he said prosecutors had told him the woman's account of the alleged attack in the call was consistent with what she had earlier told prosecutors and a grand jury.
"The victim here made some mistakes, that doesn't mean she's not a rape victim," Thompson told journalists. "All this stuff leaked to the New York Times was designed to discredit her. ... She is determined. She is not going to remain in hiding any more. She is going to tell you what Dominique Strauss-Kahn did to her, and what prosecutors in this office did to her."
Thompson also asked why, in the aftermath of the accusation, the police and DA's office failed to even try to question Strauss-Kahn about what had happened in the hotel room during the five hours they held him in custody before he asked for an attorney. New York police authorities had arrested the former IMF head as he was sitting on an Air France flight awaiting takeoff at JFK Airport on May 14.
"Why wasn't DSK questioned before he asked to speak to his lawyer?" Thompson said he asked Vance. "Cy Vance had no answer. That does not make sense."
Separately, reports this week noted that Lisa Friel, the head of the Manhattan DA office sex crimes division had resigned.
Vance, speaking to reporters after Friday's court hearing, said his office was not yet dropping the case.
"Our prosecutors from the Manhattan D.A.'s office will continue their investigation into these alleged crimes and will do so until we have uncovered all relevant facts," Vance said outside New York State Supreme Court.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 18th.