Nafissatou Diallo's lawyers Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor… (Olivier Douliery / Abaca/MCT )
The suit by a hotel maid who alleged she was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the once-prominent French politician, can go forward, a New York judge ruled Tuesday.
In a 12-page decision, State Supreme Court Judge Douglas McKeon rejected Strauss-Kahn’s contention that he could not be sued in the civil case because he had diplomatic immunity in May 2011 when the encounter with the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, is alleged to have taken place. At the time, Strauss-Kahn was head of the International Monetary Fund.
McKeon pointed out that Strauss-Kahn had not invoked diplomatic immunity in the criminal case because he wanted to fight the carges against him. So, the judge said, Strauss-Kahn could not make such a claim in the current civil suit.
“Strauss-Kahn cannot eschew immunity in an effort to clear his name only to embrace it now to deny Ms. Diallo the opportunity to clear hers,” the judge wrote.
Diallo, 33, was a hotel housekeeper when she said that Strauss-Kahn, 63, tried to rape her when she arrived to clean his Manhattan suite. Strauss-Kahn has denied violence during the encounter.
The allegation set off a flurry of publicity that eventually forced Strauss-Kahn to relinquish his IMF post. It also cost him a chance to run in the French elections for president, a race that the early conventional wisdom gave him a good shot of winning.
Strauss-Kahn was charged, but the sexual assault charges were dropped when prosecutors said they had problems with the woman’s credibility. They also said that the physical evidence did not conclusively establish assault. The civil suit was later filed.
“We are extremely pleased with Judge McKeon's well reasoned and articulate decision recognizing that Strauss-Kahn is not entitled to immunity,” Diallo’s attorneys Kenneth P. Thompson and Douglas H. Wigdor said in a statement emailed to reporters. “We have said all along that Strauss-Kahn's desperate plea for immunity was a tactic designed to delay these proceedings and we now look forward to holding him accountable for the brutal sexual assault that he committed.”
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers William Taylor III, Hugh Campbell and Amit Mehta said in their statement that they were disappointed by the judge’s decision.
“We are disappointed that the court did not grant our motion to dismiss the civil suit against Mr. Strauss-Kahn. He is determined to fight the claims brought against him, and we are confident that he will prevail,” they said.
After Strauss-Kahn's arrest in New York, a French writer alleged that he tried to rape her during a 2003 interview, but Paris prosecutors said that accusation was too old to examine.
However, French authorities have pursued an unrelated allegation that Strauss-Kahn was involved in a hotel prostitution ring including prominent figures and police in the city of Lille. In March, he was handed preliminary charges, which in France means the case is being investigated.