As I’m sure you’ve read here, a New York State Supreme Court judge has moved to dismiss sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the request of the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Unless an appellate court agrees to appoint a special prosecutor in this politically charged case, Strauss-Kahn won’t be tried for the alleged May 14, 2011, attack on Sofitel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo.
I sat down and read the 25-page explanation of why prosecutors in D.A. Cyrus Vance’s office no longer believe Diallo.
In it, they cite the fact that she had three different accounts of what she did immediately after the sexual encounter; that she lied about her earnings to retain lower-income housing; and that she had questionable financial dealings with an incarcerated man she called her fiance.
The most damning untruth, according to prosecutors: Diallo repeatedly told investigators that she had been gang raped by soldiers in her native Guinea. The 33-year-old widow and mother of a teenage daughter—who is illiterate—reportedly made the claims to jibe with what she believed to be on her request for asylum in the United States. (Apparently, a man who helped Diallo file her immigration papers gave her a cassette tape of a rape narrative that would likely compel officials to grant her asylum. Diallo, according to the prosecution’s statement, memorized the story and recited it as her own.)
What the document doesn’t say is that the physical evidence is any different. So the question isn’t whether Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a 62-year-old husband of a prominent, wealthy journalist, and a French presidential hopeful, forced his penis into the mouth of a woman nearly half his age. The document doesn’t deny that Strauss-Kahn’s semen was on Diallo’s uniform and on the hotel room floor. The question, according to prosecutors, is whether or not Diallo makes a good witness. And, point blank, they don’t think so:
“At the time of the indictment, all available evidence satisfied us that the complainant was reliable. But evidence gathered in our post-indictment investigation severely undermined her reliability as a witness in this case. That an individual has lied in the past or committed criminal acts does not necessarily render them unbelievable to us as prosecutors, or keep us from putting them on the witness stand at trial. But the nature and number of the complainant’s falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter between the complainant and the defendant. If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, we cannot ask a jury to do so.”
I’m not running for re-election, as D.A. Cyrus Vance likely will. And I don’t work in a field where you don’t fight because you don’t think you can win. Maybe that’s why I can’t wrap my head around this logic. But it seems to me that despite Diallo’s largely self-protective lies and her poor recall of mundane post-encounter details, something very strange, very wrong and very coercive happened in that hotel room back in May. As a result, Diallo is at risk for deportation and she’s now considered by many mainstream media to be a conniving liar. (Her civil case against Strauss-Kahn for undisclosed damages, and her libel case against the scandalous New York Post, which has used gendered slurs to describe both parties, are pending.)
Since this isn’t about what happened, but about Diallo’s character and credibility, I’m going to apply the same treatment to Strauss-Kahn. I’m going to ask—again:
Why the hell is a 62-year-old, married, father of a womanchild, who has already been censured for abusing his power via a sexual relationship with a younger subordinate at the IMF, putting his penis into the mouth of a Guinean hotel maid while she’s making her cleaning rounds? What kind of character risks a presidential election, his marriage, his global reputation for a few minutes of random oral sex? And what would he have to gain by lying about the nature of this encounter?
Now that criminal charges for Strauss-Kahn are off the table, maybe more people will ask these questions. And maybe Nafissatou Diallo—a once-private citizen who made the mistake of reporting an alleged sexual assault by a man who was a little too powerful to a district attorney’s office that was a little too weak—will get what she’s asked for: Her day in court.
Extra: Click here for anti-rape advocates’ on-point statement about media leaks, the prosecution’s conduct and the nature of rape victim-blaming.