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Prosecutors recommend dropping Strauss-Kahn sex assault charges, say maid repeatedly lied
NEW YORK (AP) ' For all that had been revealed as prosecutors moved Monday to drop their sexual assault case against former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, they said they couldn't answer the central question: what happened between him and a maid in his luxurious hotel suite.
In a 25-page court document, Manhattan prosecutors described the lies and inconsistencies they said had shattered the housekeeper's credibility, delved into DNA evidence they said showed sexual contact but not necessarily a forced encounter, discussed why they saw medical findings as inconclusive and detailed their findings in sometimes down-to-the-minute detail.
But in a footnote, they noted that the rundown didn't "purport to make factual findings" about whether there indeed was an attack, as the maid has claimed.
"Rather," they said, "we simply no longer have confidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty."
With that, the district attorney's office asked a judge to put an end to a case that created a cross-continental sensation. A formal dismissal is expected at Strauss-Kahn's court date Tuesday, though the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, is asking the judge to boot the DA's office off the case and put it on hold until a special prosecutor can be appointed.
Still, if the criminal case is dismissed, efforts to shed light on what transpired in Strauss-Kahn's suite at the Sofitel hotel are bound to continue in another court: the Bronx civil court handling Diallo's lawsuit against him.
Echoing and expanding on concerns prosecutors had raised previously, they said in court papers Diallo repeatedly lied to investigators and grand jurors about her life, her past and her actions following her encounter with the French diplomat.
She gave three versions of what she did right after when she says she was attacked and established a troubling ability to present "fiction as fact with complete conviction" by telling a phony tale of a previous rape, prosecutors wrote. She also was evasive about nearly $60,000 that other people had moved through her bank account and insisted she had no interest in getting money from Strauss-Kahn ' once telling prosecutors no one could "buy" her ' only to sue him within three months, they said.
"In virtually every substantive interview with prosecutors, despite entreaties to simply be truthful, she has not been truthful on matters great and small," the lawyers wrote. "... Our grave concerns about (Diallo's) reliability make it impossible to resolve the question of what exactly happened."
Prosecutors met briefly Monday with Diallo and her attorney, Kenneth Thompson, who emerged blasting them for their decision.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance "has not only turned his back on this innocent victim, but he has also turned his back on the forensic, medical and other physical evidence in this case," Thompson said.
Strauss-Kahn lawyers William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman, meanwhile, said he and his family were grateful for prosecutors' decision.
"We have maintained from the beginning of this case that our client is innocent," they said in a statement. "We also maintained that there were many reasons to believe that Mr. Strauss-Kahn's accuser was not credible."
The case captured international attention as a seeming cauldron of sex, violence, power and politics: A promising French presidential contender, known in his homeland as the Great Seducer, accused of a brutal and contemptuous attack on a West African immigrant who had come to clean his plush suite.
The stakes were high for Strauss-Kahn, who resigned his IMF post, spent nearly a week behind bars and then spent possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for house arrest, as well as for Vance, who was handling the biggest case he has had during his 18 months in office.
Strauss-Kahn, who's 62 and married, was arrested after Diallo, 32, said he chased her down, grabbed her crotch and forced her to perform oral sex. Strauss-Kahn denied the allegations, and his lawyers have said anything that happened wasn't forced.
Like many sexual assault cases, in which the accused and accuser are often the only eyewitnesses, the Strauss-Kahn case has hinged heavily on the woman's believability.
Early on, prosecutors stressed that Diallo had provided "a compelling and unwavering story" replete with "very powerful details" and buttressed by forensic evidence; his semen was found on her uniform. The police commissioner said seasoned detectives had found her credible.
But then prosecutors said July 1 they'd found the maid had told them a series of troubling falsehoods, including a persuasive but phony account of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea. She said she was echoing a story she'd told to enhance her 2003 bid for political asylum, but there's no mention of it on her written application, prosecutors said in Monday's filing. She told interviewers she was raped in her homeland under other circumstances.
She also wasn't consistent about what she did after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn, first telling a grand jury she had hovered in a hallway, then saying she had continued cleaning a nearby room and then Strauss-Kahn's before bumping into her supervisor and obliquely telling her about the encounter, according to Monday's filing. Then, when electronic key-card records showed she had been in the nearby room for less than a minute, she said had only popped into it to retrieve cleaning supplies and denied having said otherwise, prosecutors said.
Diallo has said any discrepancy was a misunderstanding.
She also had a recorded phone conversation, with a jailed man in her life, in which "the potential for financial recovery" from Strauss-Kahn was mentioned, prosecutors wrote.
The man, who has been convicted of delivering more than $36,000 to undercover officers to buy marijuana, came up again as prosecutors were exploring the $60,000 in deposits that people in four states had made into her checking account, they said. She told prosecutors she'd allowed the jailed man to use her account to make deposits and have her withdraw cash to give to a person she thought was his partner in a clothing and accessory business.
She has told interviewers the man used the bank account without telling her. As for the phone call, Thompson said, she mentioned Strauss-Kahn's money only to say that the man she accused of attacking her was influential.
Strauss-Kahn's semen was found on her uniform dress, his DNA was identified on pantyhose and underwear she was wearing and a gynecological exam found an area of "redness," according to prosecutors. But they said none of that was incontrovertible proof of a sexual assault.
In asking for a special prosecutor, Diallo's lawyer said the DA's office has "sabotaged" the case, accusing prosecutors of leaking damaging and false information about Diallo to reporters, among other claims. Many echo issues he had raised in asking Vance last month to step aside.
Special prosecutors are most often appointed when a DA has a personal conflict of interest, such as when a DA's office staffer is arrested or the DA represented a defendant while in private practice. Thompson notes that one of Brafman's partners is married to one of Vance's top deputies.
Vance's office has said there's no basis for recusing it from the case. Legal experts have given Thompson's request slim chances.
Meanwhile, Diallo sued Strauss-Kahn Aug. 8, seeking unspecified damages and promising to air other allegations that Strauss-Kahn accosted and attacked women in other locales.
His lawyers called her suit a meritless claim that proved she was out for money.
The Associated Press generally doesn't name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or publicly identify themselves, as Diallo has done.
Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris contributed to this report.
Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz.