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Strauss-Kahn and New York hotel maid settle lawsuit

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn settles a suit with a maid who accused him of sexual assault.

December 11, 2012|By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times
  • Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her, leaves court in New York after settling her civil suit against him.
Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn… (Emmanual Dunand, AFP/Getty…)

NEW YORK — A hotel housekeeper whose allegations of sexual assault derailed former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's professional career and political ambitions in France settled her lawsuit against the financier Monday, more than a year after prosecutors dropped criminal charges amid concerns over her credibility.

Details of the settlement were not released, but the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, 33, and her attorney, Kenneth Thompson, appeared satisfied as they emerged from the courthouse. "I just want to say I thank everyone who supported me all over the world," Diallo said. "Thank you very much."

Thompson added: "Miss Diallo is a strong and courageous woman who never lost faith in our system of justice. With this resolution, she can now move on with her life."

Attorneys for Strauss-Kahn, 63, who did not attend the hearing, said in a statement that they were "pleased to have arrived at a resolution of this matter."

The allegations and his arrest forced Strauss-Kahn to resign as head of the IMF.

Neither side had confirmed reports in French and U.S. media that the settlement called for Diallo to receive several million dollars, but Stuart Slotnick, a lawyer who has represented high-profile defendants in civil cases, said it would not be surprising if Strauss-Kahn had to pay a large amount.

"The plaintiff's attorneys had been very aggressive in prosecuting the criminal case," he said. "There's no reason to believe they would not be as aggressive in a settlement as they've been in prosecuting Diallo's claims."

Thompson had railed against the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., after prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn last year. They said interviews with Diallo, who came to the U.S. from the West African nation of Guinea in 2003, showed she had lied about her background, including making up a story of being gang-raped in Guinea.

That ended one chapter in a saga that erupted in May 2011 when Diallo, who was working as a housekeeper at Manhattan's Sofitel hotel, claimed Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her when she entered his suite to clean it.

The case captured international headlines as much for the lurid accusations against Strauss-Kahn as for the drama surrounding his arrest and later his freedom. It even included an earthquake: a rare magnitude 5.8 temblor that began shaking New York City just as Vance was about to hold a news conference explaining his decision to drop charges. The news conference never happened.

Strauss-Kahn had been considered a promising candidate for the French presidency, and his supporters in France criticized the U.S. justice system for subjecting such a prominent political figure to the humiliation of being paraded handcuffed in front of the media, held in jail and brought into courtrooms with cameras covering the proceedings. He was freed on a $6-million bond agreement and allowed to live under house arrest.

Within weeks, the house arrest and bail were lifted as prosecutors became concerned that inconsistencies in Diallo's statements would make it impossible to get a jury to convict Strauss-Kahn on charges that included attempted rape, unlawful imprisonment and sexual abuse.

Strauss-Kahn returned to Paris after the criminal charges were dropped, but Diallo's accusations — that he emerged from his hotel bathroom naked, shoved her onto the bed, tried to rape her and forced her to perform oral sex — prompted additional allegations against him from other women.

French prosecutors are considering whether to press charges against Strauss-Kahn alleging he was involved in a ring that arranged sex parties with prostitutes.

Strauss-Kahn has denied wrongdoing but admitted in an interview with the French magazine Le Point this year that he was "naive" in thinking he could attend sex parties and engage in "free behavior" between consenting adults without offending some people.

"I was out of step with French society," he said. Strauss-Kahn told French TV in a separate interview that he regretted his encounter with Diallo.

But if other famous men can overcome sordid cases, Strauss-Kahn probably will be able to as well, said Slotnick, who has defended American Apparel founder Dov Charney against allegations of sexual harassment. "We've seen other people recover from allegations in the past, from Michael Jackson to Kobe Bryant to Woody Allen," Slotnick said.

Strauss-Kahn should benefit from indications that many Europeans at least initially thought that his prosecution in New York was unfair. "Dismissal [of the criminal charges] may have confirmed the feeling of those in Europe," Slotnick said.

Now, with the civil suit behind him, Strauss-Kahn is in position to rebuild his reputation at home, Slotnick said.

tina.susman@latimes.com

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