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Officials say Strauss-Kahn case seen as in jeopardy

The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on the verge of collapse as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper.
IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves the New York Police Department Special Victims Unit headquarters in Harlem
Former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves the New York Police Department Special Victims Unit headquarters in May.Allison Joyce / REUTERS
/ Source: The New York Times

The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on the verge of collapse as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper who charged that he attacked her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May, according to two well-placed law enforcement officials.

Although forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Mr. Strauss Kahn, a French politician, and the woman, prosecutors do not believe much of what the accuser has told them about the circumstances or about herself.

Since her initial allegation on May 14, the accuser has repeatedly lied, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Senior prosecutors met with lawyers for Mr. Strauss-Kahn on Thursday and provided details about their findings, and the parties are discussing whether to dismiss the felony charges. Among the discoveries, one of the officials said, are issues involving the asylum application of the 32-year-old housekeeper, who is Guinean, and possible links to criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers will return to State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Friday morning, when Justice Michael J. Obus is expected to consider easing the extraordinary bail conditions that he imposed on Mr. Strauss-Kahn in the days after he was charged.

Indeed, Mr. Strauss-Kahn could be released on his own recognizance, and freed from house arrest, reflecting the likelihood that the serious criminal charges against him will not be sustained. The district attorney’s office may try to require Mr. Strauss-Kahn to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, but his lawyers are likely to contest such a move.

'Stunning change of fortune'
The revelations mark a stunning change of fortune for Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who was a leading candidate for the French presidency before being accused of sexually assaulting the woman who went to clean his luxury suite at the Sofitel New York.

Prosecutors from the office of District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who initially were emphatic about the strength of the case and the account of the victim, plan to tell the court on Friday that they “have problems with the case” based on what their investigators have discovered, and will disclose more details of their findings to the defense.

“It is a mess, a mess on both sides,” the official said.

According to the two law enforcement officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.

That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He was among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and New York.

They also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five different companies. The woman insisted she only had a single phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends.

In addition, the official said, she told investigators that part of her application for asylum included a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application.

A lawyer for the woman, Kenneth Thompson, could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday evening.

In recent weeks, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Benjamin Brafman and William W. Taylor III, have made clear that they would make the credibility of the woman a focus of their case. In a May 25 letter they said that they had uncovered information that would “gravely undermine the credibility” of the housekeeper.

Still, it was the prosecutor’s investigators who found the information about the alleged victim.

The case involving Mr. Strauss-Kahn has made international headlines and renewed attention on his alleged past inappropriate behavior toward women, while, more broadly, triggering soul-searching among the French about the treatment of women.

The new revelations are likely to buttress the view of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s supporters, who complained that the American authorities had rushed to judgment in the case.

Some of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s allies even contended that he had been set up by his political rivals, an assertion law enforcement authorities said there was no evidence to support.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn resigned from his post as managing director of the International Monetary Fund in the wake of the woman’s allegation and was required to post $1 million bail and a $5 million bond.

Expensive house arrest
He also agreed to remain under 24-hour home confinement while wearing an ankle monitor and providing a security team and an armed guard at the entrance and exit of the building. The conditions are costing Mr. Strauss-Kahn $250,000 a month.

Prosecutors had sought the restrictive conditions in part by arguing that the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn was a strong one, citing a number of factors including the credibility of his accuser, the housekeeper, saying her story was “compelling and unwavering.”

The French politician was such a pariah in the initial days after the arrest that neighbors of an upper East Side apartment building complained when he and his wife attempted to rent a unit there. He eventually rented a three-story town house on Franklin Street in TriBeCa.

Under the newly relaxed conditions of bail set to be presented on Friday, the district attorney’s office would retain Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s passport and he would be permitted to travel within the United States.

After the indictment was filed, Mr. Vance took to the steps of the courthouse and characterized the charges as “extremely serious,” and that the “evidence supports the commission of non-consensual forced sexual acts.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Mr. Brafman and Mr. Taylor, declined comment on Thursday evening.

The case was not scheduled to return to court until July 18.

This article, "Strauss-Kahn case seen as in jeopardy," first appeared in The New York Times.