(Updates with phone conversation in 36th paragraph.)
July 4 (Bloomberg) -- Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office isn’t ready to dismiss sexual assault charges against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn even after becoming aware of allegations his accuser was a prostitute, his top deputy said.
“We’re going to complete our investigation,” Daniel R. Alonso, chief assistant district attorney, said yesterday in an interview. “And we’re going to decide the responsible thing to do.”
There is no evidence to support a report by the New York Post, citing defense sources, that Strauss-Kahn’s accuser, a hotel housekeeper from Guinea, is a prostitute or targeted him for financial gain, Alonso said.
Prosecutors have done “everything by the book” in handling the case, Alonso said. The office’s investigation uncovered evidence that the 32-year-old woman had lied about key aspects of her life. Alonso declined to comment on whether she may be charged with perjury.
The tipping point, which led to Strauss-Kahn’s July 1 release from home confinement, may have been an interview with the accuser on June 9 in which she admitted that she had falsely claimed she had been gang-raped by solders in Guinea, prosecutors said.
The woman had “cried and appeared markedly distraught” in two interviews when recounting the rape, according to a court filing. Then she admitted that the rape she had spoken of so emotionally had never occurred. Prosecutors said the woman’s attorney cut off questioning.
“The district attorney made clear we had to complete the interview, determine what our obligations were and finish the investigation as soon as possible,” Alonso said.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, still facing charges of sexual assault and attempted rape, was released from home confinement after prosecutors told a judge the case had been hurt by “substantial credibility issues.” His $1 million bail and $5 million bond were ordered returned, and he is no longer required to remain under armed guard and electronic monitoring.
He is allowed to travel throughout the U.S. Prosecutors kept his travel documents.
The economist and politician, who was a possible Socialist Party candidate to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy next year, is scheduled to return to court July 18.
“The case is not over,” New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus told him at the July 1 hearing.
Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, said after the hearing that he thought all of the charges will eventually be dismissed. “We believed from the beginning that this case was not what it appeared to be,” he said.
Brafman declined to comment yesterday.
Kenneth Thompson, a lawyer for the housekeeper, told reporters July 1 that medical and forensic evidence supported the woman’s account of the assault. That evidence includes hospital photos of a vaginal bruise that the woman suffered when Strauss-Kahn grabbed her, he said. The forensic evidence is consistent with the woman’s account that she spit out semen as she fled the room, Thompson said.
The case against Strauss-Kahn will be pursued along with an investigation of false statements by his accuser that have “raised concerns,” Vance said July 1.
Air France Flight
The former French finance minister was taken off an Air France flight by Port Authority police at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on May 14, the day of the alleged attack.
He was turned over to detectives from the New York Police Department’s Special Victims Squad and formally arrested early May 15.
At a May 16 hearing, prosecutors asked that Strauss-Kahn be held without bail, saying the evidence was compelling that he was a flight risk because France doesn’t extradite its citizens.
Strauss-Kahn was incarcerated at Riker’s Island, New York’s main jail complex, until May 20, when a judge allowed him to be released under house arrest over a prosecutor’s objections. Prosecutors estimated his security cost $200,000 a month.
At the July 1 hearing, prosecutors agreed not to oppose Strauss-Kahn’s request to be released on his own recognizance.
“At the time this case came to the district attorney’s office, we were faced with a credible claim of a serious sexual assault by a civilian witness who made prompt outcry to third parties and had a solid work history with her employer,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in court July 1. “The fact of a sexual encounter was and is corroborated by forensic evidence, and the very brief time period inside the hotel suite strongly suggested something other than a consensual act.”
Illuzzi-Orbon said the office conducted extensive interviews with the alleged victim, co-workers, friends and hotel security, and also reviewed physical evidence and subpoenaed records.
According to a letter dated June 30 and filed in court July 1 by prosecutors, the housekeeper lied to a grand jury about her actions right after the alleged attack, as well as on her tax returns and in an application for asylum.
The housekeeper stated in a 2004 application for asylum that she had been raped by Guinean soldiers, prosecutors said in the letter. She also had stated that she and her husband had been persecuted and harassed by the dictatorial regime then in power in Guinea. She said her house was burned and her husband died while in jail.
The woman said she fabricated the statement with the assistance of a man who provided her with a cassette recording of the facts contained in the statement that she eventually submitted, according to the letter.
Prosecutors said they were stymied in their attempts to obtain more information from the woman after Thompson, her lawyer, failed to make her available for questioning for 19 days after he cut off the June 9 interview.
Thompson and a representative didn’t immediately return e- mails seeking comment yesterday.
By June 28, the district attorney’s office had discovered $50,000 to $100,000 had been deposited in the woman’s bank account over less than two years, according to a person who declined to be identified because the matter is still under investigation. The deposits were made from at least two states, Arizona and Georgia, the person said.
They also learned the woman had more than one telephone, the person said.
Friend in Jail
The housekeeper claimed the deposits were the result of someone else using her account, the person said. The man using the account was a friend who is jailed in Arizona in connection with the possession of 100 pounds of marijuana, the person said.
On June 28, the woman changed her story about what happened immediately after the incident in the Sofitel on West 44th Street, a story she had given to the grand jury that indicted Strauss-Kahn on seven counts, including criminal sex act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching.
The woman told the grand jury that after the assault in suite 2806 of the Sofitel in Manhattan, she fled to an area of the main hallway on the 28th floor and waited until she saw Strauss-Kahn leave the suite, according to the June 30 letter.
She said she then reported the incident to her supervisor, who arrived a short time later, according to the letter.
The housekeeper on June 28 “admitted that this account was false and that after the incident in suite 2806 she proceeded to clean a nearby room and then returned to suite 2806 and began to clean it before she reported the incident to her supervisor,” according to the letter.
The following day, on June 29, prosecutors obtained a translated summary of a recorded phone call in which the housekeeper discussed the incident with a friend incarcerated in Arizona, said the person familiar with the matter.
A paralegal in the office took notes as an interpreter translated the conversation in a Guinean language called Fulani. The notes show the woman talked about the incident and what happened in the hotel room, the person said. The man asked if she was all right, the person said.
The accuser is quoted as saying, “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,” according to another person, who declined to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.
Prosecutors requested the date of the conversation, and learned by June 30 that it had taken place May 15, the day after the alleged attack.
According to the letter, the woman admitted other lies during the district attorney’s investigation. She said that for the past two years she declared a friend’s child in addition to her own as a dependent on her tax returns to increase her refund. She also said she misrepresented her income in order to maintain her housing, prosecutors said in the letter.
At 3 p.m. on June 30, prosecutors met with defense attorney Brafman and gave him the letter.
The following day, Straus-Kahn was free to leave his rented townhouse as he wished.
Voter polls had shown Strauss-Kahn as the potential candidate with the best chance of beating Sarkozy in next May’s general election. Socialist Party hopefuls have until July 13 to register for their primary, which is scheduled for October.
Strauss-Kahn should return to the French political scene, according to 49 percent of people surveyed by the French daily Le Parisien. A total of 45 percent said he shouldn’t come back to politics, the poll showed.
Harris Interactive conducted the survey for Le Parisien, questioning 1,000 adults online from July 1 at 8 p.m. local time through July 2.
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 2526/11, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County (Manhattan).
--With assistance from Patricia Hurtado in New York and Alan Katz in Paris. Editors: Michael Hytha, Patrick Oster.
To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Freifeld in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com