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.

msnbc.com news services
updated 8/24/2011 9:49:24 AM ET 2011-08-24T13:49:24

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, his wife by his side, walked to a Manhattan courtroom through shouting protesters carrying signs that read: "Put the rapist on trial — not the victim."

Just hours later, the French diplomat was a free man — his attempted rape case formally dismissed.

The former International Monetary Fund leader can leave the United States after he's handed back his passport — which could happen as soon as Wednesday — but he will return to France to face an uncertain future that includes another investigation into an alleged sexual assault.

Story: Sex assault charges against Strauss-Kahn dropped

"I can't wait to get back to my country, but there are some things I have to do first," he said in French outside the posh Tribeca town home where he was kept under house arrest.

The New York case was dismissed Tuesday after prosecutors said they no longer trusted the hotel maid who accused him of attacking her in his luxury suite on May 14. Though evidence showed Strauss-Kahn had a sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo, prosecutors said the accuser was not credible because of lies she has told, including an earlier false rape claim.

"He paid a heavy price for a momentary lapse of judgment that was not criminal," defense attorney Benjamin Brafman told TODAY.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Richard Drew  /  AP
Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, left, and his lawyer Benjamin Brafman listen to proceedings in Manhattan state Supreme Court in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011.

But an investigation continues in France into claims by novelist Tristane Banon, who said Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2002. She recently filed a new criminal complaint. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have called her account "imaginary."

And in New York, Strauss-Kahn still faces a lawsuit Diallo filed against him. Her attorneys said they would aggressively litigate the civil case — but it could take two years before it gets to trial.

Strauss-Kahn may also take legal action of his own against Diallo, said Brafman. He could file his own claims to counter Diallo's lawsuit, "and that's certainly a consideration," Brafman told The Associated Press in an interview. "Because she did lie, and he has suffered enormous damages as a result of those lies."

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

While Diallo's account of the encounter has been recounted in interviews, her lawsuit and the now-defunct prosecution, Strauss-Kahn doesn't want to detail his version of what happened at the luxurious hotel, Brafman said.

"What happened in that room, so long as we have now confirmed that it wasn't criminal, is really not something that needs to be discussed publicly," he said.

Strauss-Kahn appeared resolute at the hearing. 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," the statement said. "I am most deeply grateful to my wife and family who have gone through this ordeal with me."

Diallo, 33, claimed that the 62-year-old diplomat chased her down, grabbed her crotch and forced her to perform oral sex when she arrived to clean his suite.

He was charged with a criminal sex act, attempted rape and sexual abuse, and was jailed for nearly a week before being released on $1 million bail under pricey house arrest.

DNA evidence showed Strauss-Kahn's semen on Diallo's work clothes, and prosecutors on Monday revealed additional details that led them to believe a sexual encounter occurred.

Strauss-Kahn's attorneys contended it wasn't forced.

"At the very first appearance ... I said in open court that this was not a forcible encounter," Brafman said outside court. "You can engage in inappropriate behavior, perhaps, but that is much different than a crime. And this case was treated as a crime — when it was not."

When prosecutors brought charges, they said their evidence was strong and Diallo was credible. But in July they said she had told them a series of troubling falsehoods, including a phony account of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea. She told interviewers she was raped in her homeland under other circumstances and embellished the account to enhance her 2003 application for political asylum.

Like many sexual assault cases, in which the accused and the accuser are often the only witnesses, the Strauss-Kahn case hinged heavily on the maid's believability. Prosecutors said Monday they uncovered further information that made it impossible to continue their investigation.

"Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that," Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said in formally recommending the case be dismissed.

Louis Lanzano  /  AP
Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves Manhattan State Supreme court with his wife Anne Sinclair, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, in New York.

She added that prosecutors' decision to drop the case "does not mean that we, in any way, condone the defendant's behavior."

"At the end of the day, now that the charges are dismissed, I think it's a statement to the world," Brafman told TODAY. "The presumption of innocence is an important concept in our country."

Diallo maintains that Strauss-Kahn attacked her, and that she initially lied about the asylum application because she feared what would happen if she had told the truth. Diallo came forward in a series of interviews with media after it became clear prosecutors were losing faith in her credibility. The Associated Press does not usually name people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Diallo and Banon have done.

Diallo did not attend the hearing. Her attorney Kenneth Thompson said outside court that prosecutors abandoned his client.

"No man, no matter how much power, money and influence he has, has a right to sexually assault a woman," Thompson said. "We are disappointed that District Attorney Vance apparently does not believe in equal justice under the law and has denied an innocent woman a day in court."

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. They had argued Vance was biased. 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Timeline: Dominique Strauss-Kahn

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