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Ex-IMF chief's accuser speaks to media

Hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, is interviewed by ABC News and Newsweek. 'I have to be in public. … I have to tell the truth,' she says.

July 25, 2011|By Geraldine Baum, Los Angeles Times
  • Robin Roberts of ABC News, right, talks to Nafissatou Diallo, the accuser in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn assault case.
Robin Roberts of ABC News, right, talks to Nafissatou Diallo, the accuser… (Heidi Gutman / ABC News )

Reporting from New York — The maid who says she was sexually assaulted by prominent Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn stepped out in public Sunday, allowing her name and face to be used in two media interviews in which she described in vivid detail the alleged attack.

Nafissatou Diallo, a 32-year-old immigrant from Guinea, is apparently concerned that the Manhattan district attorney will drop four felony and three misdemeanor charges against Strauss-Kahn because of questions about her credibility that arose during the investigation.

"I never want to be in public but I have no choice," Diallo told ABC News in an interview that is scheduled to air Monday and Tuesday. Now, I have to be in public. I have to, for myself. I have to tell the truth." Her photograph is on the cover of Newsweek and she appears strolling with her interviewer in a photograph distributed by ABC on Sunday.

Lawyers for the former International Monetary Fund chief have insisted his sexual encounter with the maid was consensual. In an email to reporters Sunday, they decried her public statements as part of a ploy to pressure the district attorney's office to pursue the charges despite inconsistencies they discovered in her statements.

"Ms. Diallo is the first accuser in history to conduct a media campaign to persuade a prosecutor to pursue charges against a person from whom she wants money," the email said. "It is time for this unseemly circus to stop."

In separate interviews with ABC and Newsweek conducted last week in her attorney's Manhattan office, Diallo retold the story of the alleged attack in Room 2806 of the Sofitel Hotel on May 14. She offered few details that have not already been leaked to the media by law enforcement but underscored her fear during the alleged attack that she might be fired.

"You're beautiful," Strauss-Kahn told her, according to her account in Newsweek. "I said, 'Sir, stop this. I don't want to lose my job.' "

Diallo added that she tried to avoid eye contact with Strauss-Kahn. She said she kept pushing him away after he came after her but was careful: "I don't want to hurt him.... I don't want to lose my job." She told the reporters that she was brutally gripped in her crotch and that Strauss-Kahn forced her to have oral sex. The Newsweek account said that the incident took place in less than 15 minutes.

Newsweek described her as "statuesque" and, at 5 feet 10, taller than Strauss-Kahn.

During the interview, she was characterized as reticent, and she even wept when discussing what she had gone through to get to America in 2003, but became "upbeat" when it came to recounting her job at the Sofitel.

She was apparently assigned to clean 14 rooms a day for a wage of $25 an hour plus tips. After another maid went on maternity leave, she was lucky enough to get to clean the whole 28th floor, she told Newsweek: "I keep that floor. I never had a floor before."

Following Diallo's allegations and his arrest, Strauss-Kahn stepped down as head of the IMF. He had been living under house arrest in a TriBeCa town house.

On July 1, he was told he must still remain in the U.S. but was freed from surveillance after prosecutors uncovered major discrepancies in Diallo's account. She made false claims on her application for asylum in 2003 and repeated the claims in interviews, attorneys from the Manhattan district attorney's office said.

Her credibility was also hurt when prosecutors uncovered a recorded conversation she had with a friend in jail in which she discussed possible cash benefits of her accusation against Strauss-Kahn. The man in jail had apparently put tens of thousands of dollars into an account in her name. In her Newsweek interview, she denied she was out for money and disassociated herself with the man. "Like I say, he was my friend. I used to trust him."

In both interviews, Diallo said she was enraged that media stories quoted anonymous sources saying she had sold sex for money and inferred that might have been her motive in her encounter with Strauss-Kahn.

"Because of him they call me a prostitute," she told Newsweek. "I want him to go to jail. I want him to know there are some places you cannot use your power, you cannot use your money."

The district attorney's office had no comment Sunday. Prosecutors have reportedly said they are continuing the investigation and are not likely to make a decision about whether to drop the charges or pursue the case until later this summer.

geraldine.baum@latimes.com

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