News & Opinion


The phone call that may destroy maid’s allegation of rape

The Times

July 2, 2011


It was a phone call between a maid and a man in jail that may have changed the course of history, and decided the future presidency of France.

During the call, apparently recorded within a day of her alleged assault by the former head of the International Monetary Fund, the 32-year-old Guinean hotel worker discussed the possible benefits of pursuing charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Understandable, perhaps, under the circumstances, but ill-advised if the man was in prison on drugs charges and was one of several people to have made a number of cash deposits into the woman’s bank account in the past couple of years, which totalled around $100,000 (£62,000).

According to two “well-placed law enforcement officials”, who spoke to The New York Times, the man had been arrested on charges of possessing almost 200kg of marijuana. It appears that the call may have given prosecu- tors pause before further investigation raised other questions about the maid’s reliability as a witness.

The maid claimed that she knew nothing about the bank deposits beyond the fact that they were made by a man she described as a fiancé and his friends.

But there were said to be further inconsistencies with the maid’s applica- tion for US asylum: she told investigators that her original application had included mention of a rape, but the application made no mention of the attack.

She also said that she had been a victim of genital mutilation, although her account to prosecution investigators differed from the one contained within her asylum application. The woman also acknowledged more recent examples of making false statements; she misrepresented her income to qualify for housing benefits and claimed that a friend’s child was a dependant in order to increase her tax refund.

Prosecutors from the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr, the Manhattan District Attorney, were said to have “serious problems” with the maid’s credibility, although they would continue to pur- sue the case. “We believe we have done nothing but to support her,” Mr Vance said outside the courthouse. “Our duty is to do what is right in every case. Our office’s commitment is to the truth and the facts.”

In an explosive performance outside court, Kenneth Thompson, the maid’s lawyer, graphically outlined details of the alleged assault. He said that there was strong evidence to continue with the prosecution.

Both defence and prosecution accept that a sexual encounter took place: the defence claim that it was consensual, the prosecution that it was coercive. “Nothing changes one very important fact, namely, that Dominique Strauss-Kahn violently sexually assaulted the victim inside of that hotel room at the Sofitel,” Mr Thompson said.

He also angrily decried the leaking of information, some of which was “totally false” and much of which had been voluntarily recounted by the maid. He said that the discrepancy in the accounts of her genital mutilation were down to desperation: she did not want her daughter to suffer what she had gone through. Mr Thompson said that she had also been raped in Guinea.

Mr Thompson claimed that the District Attorney wanted the case to collapse so that it didn’t reflect badly on his tenure. One of the prosecution team was married to one of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, he added. Mr Thompson also claimed that prosecutors had screamed at the maid during her interrogation.

Mr Thompson insisted that Mr Strauss-Kahn had bruised the maid and pictures of an injury had been taken by medical staff. He had thrown her to the floor, torn a ligament in her shoulder and ripped her stockings, he said.

The maid would now “come before the world” to tell her story, he added. She was “absolutely distraught” and said that her life “was over”, Mr Thompson said. She is reported to have said: “I have nothing left. I have no job. People around the world think I am a liar.”

The maid would appear “in front of the cameras and tell the world what Dominique Strauss-Kahn did”, he added.

Mr Thompson added that the physical evidence backed up the maid’s claims that she had gone to Mr Strauss-Kahn’s suite, 2806, on May 14 at the midtown Sofitel to clean it when he had emerged, naked, from the bathroom and attacked her. He is alleged to have ripped her stockings, attempted to rape her and forced her to perform a sex act. His semen was identified in a DNA test of her clothing.

There were reports of CCTV footage showing both the maid and Mr Strauss-Kahn leaving the hotel room, both in a panicked state, but the District Attorney claimed last night that she had in fact cleaned another room before reporting the assault.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was arrested by police officers that afternoon while he waited on an Air France plane bound for Paris after enjoying a 90-minute lunch with his daughter, Camille. Mr Strauss-Kahn was initially jailed on Rikers Island. When his bail request was finally agreed, the terms amounted to near-total house arrest. He was forced to post $1 million (£623,000) bail and a $5 million bond. He also had to pay $250,000 a month for an armed guard and security team and was required to wear an ankle monitor. He was permitted to travel only to religious services, to visit a doctor, to see his lawyers or to attend a court date.

Many observers in France claimed that the unusual restrictions amounted to an extra-judicial punishment or a failure to respect the principle of innocence until guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Some of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s allies even suggested that he had been set up. “It is a great relief,” said William Tay- lor, one of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers.

His wife, Anne Sinclair, is said to have mortgaged her Washington home to raise his bail money. She arrived at court alongside her husband yesterday.

In a recent e-mail Ms Sinclair said that she had “no doubts about the facts” of her husband’s case. “But [I am] very worried nevertheless. Dominique is a good, honest, upright man. I believe in him more than ever. We will get through this drama together, dignified and upright, hand in hand.”