Video: Dominique Strauss-Kahn glad ‘the nightmare’ is over

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    >>> back at 7:41. where does dominique strauss-kahn go from here now that the sexual assault case against him has been dismissed? we'll talk to his defense team in a moment, but first nbc's ron allen has the latest. ron, good morning.

    >> good morning, carl. you might be surprised that he's still here in new york at this luxury townhouse where he's been staying. he says he has a few things to do before he heads home to france where he says he hopes to resume one of a normal life . he won't face criminal charges but his reputation has taken a hit and he's lost quite a bit along the way. some 2 1/2 months after his shocking arrest the man known worldwide as dsk left court a free man, but no longer head of the imf, nor likely french presidential candidate. in his first public statement after criminal charges were dropped, strauss-kahn spoke only in french and says he was glad what he called the nightmare was over. i'm relieved for my wife, for my children, and for everyone who supported me during the time, he said. prosecutors have taken the unusual step of asking the judge to throw out the case, saying they believe strauss-kahn did have a sexual encounter with diallo, a house keeper in this luxury new york hotel but prosecutors say diallo made so many false and conflicting statements during her investigation they couldn't determine whether the sex was forced or consensual, adding there was no physical evidence of a violent attack. diallo's attorney still insists she is the victim of a crime .

    >> women who are raped or sexual assaulted should not have to go through some type of path to show they lived a perfect life .

    >> reporter: in a last-ditch appeal diallo's attorney asked for a special prosecutor to take over. as request denied by two judges. diallo stills a a civil lawsuit pend for an unspecified amount of money and other damages. and so ends the criminal case , the house arrest in this luxury townhouse, to the accuser publicly coming forward to demand justice after her credibility was publicly challenged, and finally, to strauss-kahn walking away. but still facing dozens of protesters shouting at him. and now the fallout and the unanswered questions. the prosecution is being criticized for bringing such serious charges and for dropping them. the accuser could face perjury charges and her name and reputation have been dragged through the mud. dsk has yet to fully explain why he apparently got involved in a sexual encounter with a hotel maid in the first place.

    >> benjamin brafman and don are here, his attorneys. good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> we heard him call it a nightmare. what has he told you about what he makes of the situation?

    >> i think at various times we've had some conversations, some were difficult than others. i think now he is relieved. i think unless you have yourself been falsely accused of a very serious crime that you did not commit, i think it's impossible to understand the full measure of the relief that dominique strauss-kahn feels today. greatly relieved.

    >> the charges were dropped though, but clearly something happened in room 2806. forensic evidence of a sexual encounter . was he honest in the beginning that, yes, something happened but not the way she put it?

    >> as ben said yesterday, there's a great deal of difference between a sexual encounter and an attack. and the issue in this case was whether or not he attacked her. the story was improbable on its face that this man would emerge from his bathroom in the nude and jump without further ceremony on the chamber maid. so when we told the prosecutors that there was more to this story than perhaps met their eye and urged them to go slow, unfortunately they moved to indict within three days. as they said yesterday, the post-indictment investigation, the post-indictment investigation, which they did, is what resulted in freeing strauss-kahn .

    >> makes you wonder, ben, what would have happened if it hadn't been for that flight, maybe they wouldn't have had to make such a quick decision on an indictment.

    >> i think it's tough today to go back and figure what could have happened, what would have happened happened. we're dealing with the reality of what did happen. what did happen is he paid a heavy price for a momentary lapse of judgment that was not criminal. at the end of the day , now that the charges are dismissed, i think it's a statement to the world that in these cases, including the media, i might add, that rushing to judgment is not a good idea and let the system play itself out. the presumption of innocence is an important concept in our country.

    >> what happens to him next? public life in france , going back to global economic work in some way?

    >> i think he has a lot of options. i think he is probably best suited to talk about public life in france . but i think his options are wonderfully wide. he's a brilliant man and a brilliant economic mind when we need that most.

    >> yeah, i think until yesterday we have not been able to tell him that he was free to make decisions of any sort. today he is. and i think he and his family will take some time and just relax. they will make whatever arrangements they want to make about where they want to live and when they want to move. and then i suspect he will gather friends about him and make some decisions.

    >> there's always going to be, i think, a school of thought, here was a man who had a sexual encounter with a hotel maid, lunch with his daughter, and went to get on an airplane. have you made a moral judgment about the man?

    >> i think we shouldn't make moral judgments about people. in this country, if you do something inappropriate, you don't get prosecuted. the moral judgment i've made about this man is on balance he's quite a remarkable individual. i'm very impressed by him on balance and the momentary lapse of judgment does not make the man. i think he is a brilliant mind and i think he has a lot to offer the world, and i hope the offers are wide and interesting.

    >> thank you for coming in.

    >> thank you.

NBC, and news services
updated 8/24/2011 8:16:08 AM ET 2011-08-24T12:16:08

Dominique Strauss-Kahn became a free man Tuesday when a judge ended the sexual assault case against him at the request of prosecutors, who said the hotel maid who accused the former International Monetary Fund chief couldn't be trusted.

Though evidence showed Strauss-Kahn had a sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo in his hotel suite more than three months ago, prosecutors said the accuser was not credible because of lies she has told, including an earlier false rape claim.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said he would dismiss the case, but there was one more legal twist to get through: He first wanted an appeals court to hear a request from Diallo's attorneys to keep the case alive by appointing a special prosecutor. The criminal case ended about two hours later, when the higher court agreed with Obus that there was no legal basis for removing the district attorney from the case.

The case drew global attention and left both the accuser and the accused — a one-time contender for the French presidency — with tattered reputations.

Strauss-Kahn arrived at court in a six-car motorcade and was greeted by protesters wielding signs carrying such messages as "DSK treats women like property" and "Put the rapist on trial — not the victim." The shouting could be heard inside the courtroom.

His accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, was not in the courtroom when Obus issued the ruling.

He appeared resolute inside. He smiled and shook hands with his biographer as his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, sat nearby.

The couple left court without speaking to reporters, but Strauss-Kahn later issued a statement describing the case as "a nightmare for me and my family."

"I want to thank all the friends in France and in the United States who have believed in my innocence, and to the thousands of people who sent us their support personally and in writing. I am most deeply grateful to my wife and family who have gone through this ordeal with me," he said.

"We will have nothing further to say about this matter and we look forward to returning to our home and resuming something of a more normal life."

Later, he appeared outside the posh Tribeca town house where he was held under house arrest until July — when prosecutors first publicly admitted they had doubts about the woman's credibility. He summed up the statement in French and was mobbed by reporters.

A news conference with the district attorney was postponed after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake in Virginia was felt in New York City.

'Compelling and unwavering'
On Monday, the Manhattan district attorney's office filed a court document that described lies and inconsistencies that they said shattered Diallo's credibility. They said they could not proceed with the case and would recommend all charges be dismissed.

Early in the sexual assault case against Strauss-Kahn, prosecutors held out his accuser as its strongest point. Her account was "compelling and unwavering," complete with "very powerful details" and corroborated by a medical exam, they said.

When they moved Monday to drop the biggest case on their docket, the woman was portrayed as its fatal weakness. She "has not been truthful on matters great and small" and has an ability to present "fiction as fact with complete conviction," and medical and DNA evidence is "simply inconclusive" as proof of a forced sexual encounter, they wrote.

"Our grave concerns about (her) reliability make it impossible to resolve the question of what exactly happened" between the hotel maid and the former International Monetary Fund leader, they wrote.

Image: Diallo with her attorney
Mario Tama  /  Getty Images
Nafissatou Diallo stands beside her attorney Kenneth Thompson as he makes a statement to reporters after their meeting at the Manhattan District Attorney's office on Monday.

With that, the Manhattan District Attorney's office asked a judge to put an end to a case that created a cross-continental sensation.

Still, efforts to shed light on what transpired in Strauss-Kahn's luxury suite May 14 are bound to continue in civil court, where Diallo has sued Strauss-Kahn.

Before his arrest, Strauss-Kahn was seen as the Socialists' leading contender for next year's French presidential elections.

France's Socialists on Tuesday lauded the move to drop the attempted rape case, but few expect Strauss-Kahn to jump back into politics very soon.

French Socialist Party chief Martine Aubry called it "an immense relief" that the prosecutors are abandoning the case.

"We were all waiting for this ... for him to finally be able to get out of this nightmare," she said on France-Info radio.

His Socialist Party has scrambled for a new candidate who could unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in April-May elections.

Some French voters appeared eager Tuesday to move forward with the presidential campaign and let Strauss-Kahn recover from the last few months in peace.

"Maybe he'll have a political future as a minister or something like that if the Socialists win but not as president, not as a candidate in the next elections," said banker Victor Diosi in Paris.

Conflicting accounts
Echoing and expanding on concerns they had raised previously, prosecutors in New York said Monday in court papers that Diallo repeatedly gave false information to investigators and grand jurors about her life, her past and her actions following her encounter with the French diplomat.

She gave three different versions of what she did right after the alleged attack and showed that she was a troublingly convincing liar by telling a phony tale of a previous rape, prosecutors wrote. She also was evasive about nearly $60,000 that other people had moved through her bank account and insisted she had no interest in getting money from Strauss-Kahn — once telling prosecutors no one could "buy" her — only to sue him within three months, they said.

Prosecutors met briefly Monday with Diallo and her attorney, Kenneth Thompson, who emerged blasting their decision.

DA Cyrus Vance "has not only turned his back on this innocent victim, but he has also turned his back on the forensic, medical and other physical evidence in this case," Thompson said.

Strauss-Kahn lawyers William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman, meanwhile, said he and his family were grateful for prosecutors' decision.

"We have maintained from the beginning of this case that our client is innocent," they said in a statement. "We also maintained that there were many reasons to believe that Mr. Strauss-Kahn's accuser was not credible."

Strauss-Kahn, 62, was arrested after Diallo, 32, said he chased her down, grabbed her crotch and forced her to perform oral sex. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have said anything that happened wasn't forced.

The case pitted the word of a promising French presidential contender, known in his homeland as "the Great Seducer," against that of an African immigrant and widowed mother who had come to clean his plush suite at the Sofitel hotel.

After trumpeting the strength of the case early on, prosecutors told a judge last month it had taken a serious hit because the maid had told them a series of worrisome falsehoods, including a fabricated tale of being gang-raped in her native Guinea and a shifting account of what she had done right after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn. After telling a grand jury she had hovered in a hallway, she later said she had returned to a nearby room and then to Strauss-Kahn's, they said.

They elaborated on those and other concerns in Monday's 25-page filing. Diallo had a recorded phone conversation, with a jailed man in her life, in which "the potential for financial recovery" from Strauss-Kahn was mentioned, prosecutors wrote. And she was evasive about nearly $60,000 that other people had deposited in her bank account, initially failing to disclose it to prosecutors and later saying she'd let the jailed man to use her account to make deposits and have her withdraw cash to give to a person she thought was his partner in a clothing and accessory business, prosecutors said.

Diallo has told interviewers the man used the bank account without telling her. As for the phone call, Thompson said, she mentioned Strauss-Kahn's money only to say that her alleged attacker was influential.

Overall, she has acknowledged some lies and said other remarks were misinterpreted. But she says none of that should keep prosecutors from pursuing the case.

Strauss-Kahn's semen was found on her uniform dress, his DNA was identified on pantyhose and underwear she was wearing, and a gynecological exam found an area of "redness," according to prosecutors. But they said none of that was incontrovertible proof of a sexual assault.

In asking for a special prosecutor, Diallo's lawyer said the DA's office has "sabotaged" the case, accusing prosecutors of leaking damaging and false information about Diallo to reporters, among other claims. Many echo issues he had raised in asking Vance last month to step aside.

Special prosecutors are most often appointed when a DA has a personal conflict of interest, such as when a DA's office staffer is arrested or the DA represented a defendant while in private practice. Thompson notes that one of Brafman's partners is married to one of Vance's top deputies.

Vance's office has said there's no basis for recusing it from the case. Legal experts had given Thompson's request slim chances.

Meanwhile, Diallo sued Strauss-Kahn on Aug. 8, seeking unspecified damages and promising to air other allegations that Strauss-Kahn accosted and attacked women in other locales.

His lawyers called her suit a meritless claim that proved she was out for money.

Investigators are probing another attempted rape accusation against him in France.

The Associated Press generally doesn't name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or publicly identify themselves, as Diallo has done.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Timeline: Dominique Strauss-Kahn


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