NEW YORK (AP) — Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers and prosecutors met behind closed doors Wednesday for what defense lawyers called a productive meeting, but there was no immediate word on what would happen to a sexual assault case that has foundered on doubts about the accuser's credibility.
The participants were tight-lipped following the roughly 90-minute, closed-door meeting, which came with the case at a sensitive stage, five days after prosecutors said the accuser hadn't been truthful about her background and the aftermath of the alleged attack.
The former International Monetary Fund leader's lawyers, Benjamin Brafman and William W. Taylor III, called the session with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and assistant prosecutors "constructive." Vance's office, meanwhile, would say only that it was continuing to investigate, and "no decisions have been made" about the case's future.
Such private meetings between prosecutors and defense attorneys aren't unusual, but the stakes in the Strauss-Kahn case are especially high.
The defense has said it wants an outright dismissal. Prosecutors must decide whether to forge ahead with a flawed case, seek a face-saving plea deal or cut their losses — a decision fraught with political peril for Vance.
Vance has faced criticism from columnists and commentators over his handling of the now-rocky case, though his office has said it did the appropriate thing at every stage. Some legal experts have said the case would be difficult, if not impossible, for prosecutors to win because the accuser's history of fabrications would make a jury reluctant to believe her.
Meanwhile, the woman's lawyer has publicly accused the DA's office of being too timid about the case.
On Wednesday, members of the police fraternal organization 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care also called on Vance's office to go ahead with the prosecution, noting that there was physical and other evidence to support it. Group founder Noel Leader said the DA's office was "participating in a smear campaign against the victim" by saying she had credibility problems.
For now, Strauss-Kahn, 62, remains charged with trying to rape the maid. Meanwhile, the Paris prosecutor's office said Wednesday it had received a criminal complaint accusing Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape a writer eight years ago.
He denies both allegations. His French lawyers have called the writer's account "imaginary" and say they plan to file a complaint accusing her of slander. His lawyers in the New York case have said the encounter was not forcible.
Just a few weeks ago, the New York case looked destined to be a long legal fight.
Physical evidence linked Strauss-Kahn to the 32-year-old hotel maid, who accused him of chasing her down in his luxury suite, forcing her to perform oral sex and yanking down her pantyhose May 14. Her version of events was unwavering, and police and prosecutors called her credible.
Prosecutors haven't questioned her account of the encounter itself, at least publicly, but they appear to have lost faith in the accuser's prospects of helping them prove it.
Authorities haven't concluded that no attack happened, but amid the revelations about the accuser's past lies, "the details are a bit more in doubt," said a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss internal decision-making.
After the case got started, the maid acknowledged she had lied to prosecutors about having been gang-raped in Guinea and hadn't given a grand jury an accurate account of what she did immediately after the alleged attack — she went on cleaning rooms before reporting it to a supervisor, prosecutors said last week. They said they also found she also had cheated on taxes, including by claiming someone else's child as her own.
Prosecutors also learned that she had alluded to Strauss-Kahn's wealth in a recorded conversation with an incarcerated friend, and that other people had deposited tens of thousands of dollars in her bank account — money she said she knew little about but authorities suspect may be tied to drug dealing, another law enforcement official has said.
The woman's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, has said she's made mistakes in her life but isn't involved in drug dealing and is telling the truth about her encounter with Strauss-Kahn.
The apparent breakdown in the relationship between the DA's office and the alleged victim creates another potentially complicating factor in pursuing the case.
Normally, sex crime victims keep a low profile and work closely with prosecutors, forming a bond needed if the case goes to trial and the victim must testify. But the disclosures about the housekeeper — and her lawyer's open criticism of Vance — have created a potentially insurmountable breach of trust.
In Paris, the official receipt of the complaint from novelist Tristane Banon means prosecutors must now decide whether there is enough evidence to charge Strauss-Kahn in France.
Banon says Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in an empty apartment during an interview for a book project, struggling with her on the floor as he tried to tear off her clothes.
Her complaint faces a series of difficult tests in the French justice system and could be dismissed long before reaching trial. Prosecutors must decide first if her allegations would support a charge of attempted rape rather than the less serious crime of sexual aggression, an attack that does not involve an attempt to penetrate the victim.
Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn is free, though he can't leave the United States. He's due back in a New York court July 18.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
- Benjamin Brafman
- smear campaign
- grand jury
- Dominique Strauss-Kahn
- Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr
- International Monetary Fund