Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, with wife Anne in July, could… (Shannon Stapleton, Reuters )
Reporting from New York — In a week, Dominique Strauss-Kahn could be a free man. Or not.
Prosecutors are expected to tell a Manhattan judge next Tuesday whether they want to proceed with a criminal trial against the 62-year-old French financier accused of trying to rape a housekeeper in his Manhattan hotel suite in May.
The prosecutors have been evaluating whether to drop the charges since discovering that his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, misled them about her background and certain facts of the incident; most troubling apparently was the tearful account she gave government investigators — which she later recanted — of how she was gang-raped in her native Guinea.
This and other inconsistencies in Diallo's claims could make it tricky for prosecutors to prove to a jury that she was telling the truth when she reported to them and hotel employees that the former head of the International Monetary Fund attacked her.
As the hearing approaches, advocates for both Diallo and Strauss-Kahn have been previewing their versions of events in the media and elsewhere.
This week, Newsweek offered a glimpse of Strauss-Kahn's likely defense, quoting sources close to him as saying that Diallo had agreed to have sex with him, but got angry when he wouldn't pay her.
Diallo, a single mother who has been in this country for seven years, has insisted that she did not agree to have sex with Strauss-Kahn when she went to clean his room, and that he then brutally attacked her, ripping off her stockings and injuring her vagina and shoulder.
Her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, said that since the attack, Diallo's reputation has taken a beating from prosecutors questioning her credibility, and through an ugly smear campaign in the media. He filed a libel suit on behalf of Diallo against the New York Post for quoting unnamed sources saying she was in the habit of selling sex for money. He also orchestrated a series of public appearances for Diallo to defend herself, and he filed a civil lawsuit designed to get her views on the record and win her compensation for her pain.
In the civil complaint against Strauss-Kahn, Thompson also took a shot at prosecutors, noting, "There have been leaks to the news media of false information about Ms. Diallo, apparently by members of the Manhattan district attorney's office, that have severely damaged Ms. Diallo's credibility, reputation and character."
The debate underway in Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance's office about the case, which has been watched around the world, has been closely held. A spokeswoman for Vance's office declined to comment except to say prosecutors "are still investigating" and that they will appear in court Tuesday.
But if the past is a precursor of coming events, tidbits of innuendo and new facts will continue to trickle out in the New York and French media.
In France, supporters of Strauss-Kahn, who was a leading contender to be the country's next president, are expecting him home any day — as a free man. Christophe Giltay, who has a blog called Champs-Elysees, wrote that people already are talking of his return to Paris as soon as the day after the hearing and of his bright political future: "We know it will be easier to completely clear Dominique Strauss-Kahn than to revive the accusation."