March 4, 2021

Charges Against Strauss-Kahn Dismissed

Prosecutors in the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, told the judge, Michael J. Obus of State Supreme Court, that they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt because of serious credibility issues with the hotel housekeeper who had accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her as she entered his suite to clean it.

The judge initially had issued a stay on his decision until an appellate court could hear the housekeeper’s motion to remove Mr. Vance and appoint a special prosecutor. The appeals court denied the request, concurring with Justice Obus that the argument had no legal basis.

Justice Obus’s order of dismissal brought some semblance of vindication to Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, after his stunning arrest more than three months ago. He was taken into custody May 14 aboard an Air France jet at Kennedy International Airport and then paraded before news cameras, disheveled and in handcuffs.

For his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, a 33-year-old Guinean immigrant, the result caps a precipitous fall. Prosecutors initially portrayed her as a credible and powerful witness, only to say that her myriad lies about her past — which included a convincing, emotional but ultimately fraudulent account of being gang raped by soldiers in Guinea — ended up undermining the case.

Ms. Diallo, who has made her identity public, still has a civil lawsuit pending against Mr. Strauss-Kahn for unspecified monetary damages, and her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, has been relentless in his assertion that Mr. Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted his client and that Mr. Vance’s office abandoned the case too soon.

Mr. Thompson made one last desperate attempt to keep the criminal case going, filing a motion on Monday asking that Mr. Vance’s office be disqualified. But about an hour before Tuesday’s hearing started, a court clerk handed out a one-page decision in which Justice Obus denied Mr. Thompson’s motion. However, Mr. Thompson appealed, leading to Justice Obus’s suspension of his dismissal order.

The appellate division’s ruling was expected to set the stage for Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s eventual return to France, where he is a leading figure in the Socialist Party and had been considered a top candidate for the French presidency.

After the hearing, Mr. Strauss-Kahn issued a statement, characterizing the time since his arrest as “a nightmare for me and my family,” and thanking the judge, his wife and family and other supporters.

He added that he was “obviously gratified that the district attorney agreed with my lawyers that this case had to be dismissed.”

“We appreciate his professionalism and that of the people who were involved in that decision,” he continued. Mr. Strauss-Kahn added that he looked forward to “returning to our home and resuming something of a more normal life.”

The case has attracted international attention ever since the arrest; each appearance in court has drawn a carnival-like atmosphere outside, with journalists and camera crews mixing with protesters. The scene on Tuesday was no exception: Well before Mr. Strauss-Kahn arrived at 11:03 a.m., about three dozen protesters gathered, most of them in opposition to Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

To them, the case represented an instance of a powerful, wealthy man getting away with something he did to a poor immigrant woman.

But his lawyers, Benjamin Brafman and William W. Taylor III, have maintained that the sexual encounter between him and Ms. Diallo was consensual and that she was simply trying to exploit him for money.

“You can engage in inappropriate behavior perhaps,” Mr. Brafman said outside the courthouse after the hearing. “But that is much different than a crime.”

Mr. Brafman and Mr. Taylor each characterized Mr. Vance’s decision to drop the charges in such a high-profile case as “courageous.”

But Mr. Thompson, Ms. Diallo’s lawyer, said Mr. Vance not only “abandoned an innocent woman,” he also made it less enticing for other women to come forward with claims of sexual assault.

On Monday, prosecutors laid out their reasons for asking that the case be dismissed in a 25-page report that concluded that Ms. Diallo could not be believed.

Colin Moynihan and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

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