Updated Dec. 10, 2012
A questionable history of sexual indiscretions caught up with the man considered to be the next president of France, but not enough to bring him down.
(Editor’s Note: On August 23, 2011 all criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn were dismissed by the New York Supreme Court at the request of the Manhattan Attorney General’s Office.
On December 10, 2012 New York Supreme Court Justice Douglas E. McKeon announced in court in the Bronx that the civil suit filed against Strauss-Kahn by former hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo had been settled in his chambers 10 minutes earlier. Ms. Diallo said after the hearing, “I thank everyone all over the world who supported me and everyone at the court. God bless you.” The terms of the settlement were kept confidential by agreement of both parties. Attorneys for Strauss-Kahn adamantly denied a report in a French newspaper that the settlement was for $6 million.)
by Don Fulsom
“I deny in the strongest possible terms the allegations which I now face; I am confident that the truth will come out and I will be exonerated. In the meantime, I cannot accept that the Fund—and you dear colleagues—should in any way have to share my own personal nightmare. So, I had to go.”
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in an e-mail to employees of the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund after tendering his resignation as its $500,000-a-year managing director.
Few Americans had ever heard of Dominique Strauss-Kahn when news broke that New York detectives had snatched him from a soon-to-depart Paris-bound jetliner and charged him with attempted rape. His arrest came with lightning speed on Saturday afternoon. May 14, 2011.
A powerful French politician and a top global economist, Strauss-Kahn maintained such a low U.S. profile that—even weeks after his arrest rocked the French political landscape—many people in the States still best knew him as “the French IMF Guy.”
This “guy,” it was later realized, had been the likely next president of France. Polls there had predicted Strauss-Kahn would have defeated President Nicolas Sarkozy by a 61-to-39-percent margin.
Following his dramatic capture aboard Air France Flight 23 at JFK, Strauss-Kahn traded his cushy first-class seat for an ordinary chair at a cop shop—the Harlem headquarters of the Manhattan Special Victims Squad, a unit that deals with sexual offenses. He spent most of that Saturday night sitting in that chair, sometimes with his feet up on another chair. Early Sunday evening, his accuser—a maid at the luxury Manhattan hotel, the Sofitel, where Strauss-Kahn had been a guest—was brought to the squad’s office. Nafissatou Diallo, a 33-year-old immigrant from Guinea, quickly identified him from a lineup.
Diallo claims that, early Saturday afternoon, a naked Strauss-Kahn chased her down the hallway and into the bedroom of his marble-floored, $3,000-a-night suite. There he allegedly grabbed her breasts, and attempted to rip off her pantyhose. He then dragged her into a bathroom and forced her to perform fellatio, she told police.
The woman says she eventually freed herself, rushed from the suite and told her co-workers—who then called police. Several reports say blood was found on the bed sheets. Both the New York Daily News and the Herald de Paris claim semen from Strauss-Kahn was found on the maid’s clothing. In fact, Strauss-Kahn’s semen was found on Diallo’s dress and his skin was on her pantyhose and underwear.
Diallo is a single mother with an estimated annual income of $23,000. Her lawyer, Jeffrey Shapiro, told the Daily News his client is eager to talk: "What's most important is her integrity and that the truth comes out.” …“She wants to testify. She wants to see this thing through."
A source told the A.P. that Strauss-Kahn made moves on other hotel staffers the day before his alleged attack on the maid. He is said to have unsuccessfully flirted with a clerk, and struck out again when he tried to lure another female Sofitel employee to his suite.
After being identified in a lineup by Diallo, the IMF head was soon sitting in a Rikers Island prison cell. He was outfitted with cheap prison apparel after handing over his astonishingly high-priced hand-made business suit to his jailers.
Even before DSK’s arrest, Washington tailor Georges de Paris had told a French publication he sold the IMF boss suits costing up to $35,000. Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn demanded that de Paris retract what they termed a “falsehood” that was “deeply injurious” to their client’s reputation. De Paris told the New York Post he refused to sign a statement that he has "never met" Strauss-Kahn and that the IMF chief "has never purchased anything from me or my business."
So, just what kind of a guy wears a $35,000 suit? One who’s paid lavish bucks to keep up with the world’s other finely attired high fliers. Strauss-Kahn's IMF pay was about $421,000-a-year, according to the Associated Press, and he was guaranteed another $75,000-a-year "allowance," so he could—as his contract said – maintain "a scale of living appropriate to your position.” The “allowance” did not require Strauss-Kahn to provide "any certification or justification" for just how the money was spent.
While at Rikers, Strauss-Kahn was put on a “suicide watch”—though he apparently was not suicidal enough to later be released on house arrest.
Strauss-Kahn’s U.S. indictment – and all the attention it has brought to his past sexual escapades – has most likely shattered his political dreams.
Yet the first reaction to Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in France, according to French journalist Apolline de Malherbe, was one of denial—that the story just couldn’t be true and must have involved a plot of some kind. She tells The Washingtonian, the French next decided to blame the U.S. Justice system:
"In France, it’s illegal to show pictures of someone in handcuffs who has yet to be convicted of a crime. That sort of practice is considered disrespectful of the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” Not only had the world seen images of a man who had yet to come to trial, but also he was unshaven and wore a wrinkled shirt, his hands bound."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t exactly respect the “innocent until proven guilty” idea either. In responding to criticism of the mandatory “perp walk,” according to The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg said, "It think it's humiliating, but if you don't want to do the perp walk, don't do the crime."
Apolline de Malherbe observes that the French view of Strauss-Kahn’s U.S. legal troubles seems to be changing: “Questions now being raised in France go deep into the nature of our culture. How private is the private life of a politician? Should France’s onetime political savior is now dubbed “Le Perv” in New York’s tabloids—which have also called him “an accused sex monster,” a “frisky Frenchman,” a “whiney fat cat,” a “horny political bigwig” and the "jet-setting" "darling of the French left" who exudes "pompous arrogance."
After pleading not guilty, Strauss-Kahn was under house arrest – complete with a GPS monitoring anklet – at a $14 million Tribeca townhouse after his wealthy heiress wife, Anne Sinclair, posted bail of $1 million in cash and a $5 million bond to gain her hubby’s freedom from Rikers. The three-level townhouse boasts a movie theater, luxury spa, waterfall showers, fitness center and roof terrace. It has four bedrooms and five bathrooms.
Under previous circumstances, Strauss-Kahn and his third wife divided their time between their $4 million home in Washington, D.C.’s exclusive Georgetown, a $2 million pad in Paris, and a holiday estate in Marrakech.
Of course, DSK might not have found complete comfort in his Tribeca digs. As one late night comedian observed: Being locked inside a house with an angry wife might be a fate far worse than solitary confinement.
Indicted on May 19, 2011, the silver-haired, corpulent, hawk-nosed 62-year-old stood accused of criminal sex, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching Diallo. The charges carry a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
To keep him from returning to Rikers—or entering any other American prison—Strauss-Kahn has put together a multi-million dollar defense team. One lawyer, Washington insider William Taylor, represented DSK several years ago when he faced an internal IMF probe into an affair he carried on with a junior subordinate. Strauss-Kahn was reprimanded for bad judgment, but cleared of any wrongdoing.
Another of DSK’s chief defenders is New York’s renowned courtroom cross-examiner Benjamin Brafman. These big legal guns are expected to repeatedly stress that the maid consented to have sex with their client. The Los Angeles Times reports that attorneys “who have worked with and opposed Brafman say his technique is often to pick one or two factual issues and, starting with the pretrial publicity, hammer away at them. In this case, they predicted he would mold his defense around Strauss-Kahn's accuser, homing in on any weakness in her story or character he could dig up.”
Jean-Dominique Merchet, a deputy editor at the weekly French magazine Marianne, had a similar take on France Info radio, according to The New York Times: “We’re going to see the man who could have been the embodiment of the French left obligated – because the American judicial system that wants it –to crush this woman” … “It’s going to be terrifying.”
All of these predictions would come true on August 23, 2011 when New York Supreme Court Judge Michael J. Obus agreed to accept the Manhattan D.A.’s Office request to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn.
In recommending dismissal of the attempted rape charges, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said, “Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that.”
Prosecutors questioned the maid’s credibility as early as July—so much so that Strauss-Kahn was then freed from house arrest.
Over the past few weeks, as the D.A.’s office showed signs of backing away from prosecuting the case, Diallo’s attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, tried to exert pressure by filing a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn and having Diallo give high-profile interviews about the alleged rape to Newsweek and ABC News. These initiatives were not enough to keep the criminal case alive.
On August 22, 2011 when the D.A.’s office asked the State Supreme Court to drop the criminal charges against DSK, Thompson said the D.A.’s motion to dismiss the case was “a hatchet job on Ms. Diallo’s credibility,” adding that the prosecutors “have basically adopted the defense arguments.”
After the charges against him were dropped, DSK appeared before a mob of reporters in front of his Tribeca townhouse and summarized—in French—a printed statement he had issued earlier in English. In part, it said: “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.”
While Strauss-Kahn has managed to dodge facing trial on rape charges in the United States, he still faces a criminal complaint in France. There writer Tristane Banon claims he attempted to rape her during an interview she conducted with him in 2003. A British newspaper, The Independent, quotes Banon as saying: “We scuffled on the ground. I kicked him several times. He undid my bra and he tried to pull down my jeans. As we were fighting, I used the word 'rape' to try to scare him but it didn't scare him." She says she fled the scene; and that she did not report the incident at the time because her mother—a Socialist politician—persuaded her not to.
French police are investigating Banon’s claim. As The Wall Street Journal reported August 23, 2011, “As soon as he sets foot in France, Mr. Strauss-Kahn is likely to be summoned for questioning by police.”
Indeed, a month after Strauss-Kahn returned to France in August, French police brought him face-to-face with Banon for simultaneous questioning.
On October 13, 2011, French prosecutors decided to drop their investigation. They said Banon’s allegations of attempted rape against DSK were too old to pursue.
The prosecutors said evidence collected by police suggested a sexual assault might have occurred, but not an attempted rape. In France, the lesser charge has a shorter statute of limitations that attempted rape – three years as compared to 10 for rape.
Denis Chemla, a prominent French lawyer who was not involved in the DSK case, said the prosecutors could not have acted otherwise. “When there is no material proof because there was no medical exam, no complaint filed at the time, [their decision] is absolutely logical,” the lawyer told Bloomberg News.
Banon’s lawyer, David Koubbi, said the prosecutors established “without reserve that the case is not empty and what [Banon] denounced is not imaginary.” He added that the prosecutors have allowed DSK to “escape criminal conviction, but not a legitimate suspicion about his behavior towards women,” according to The New York Times.
Although French authorities refused to press charges against Strauss-Kahn, Tristane Banon is far from through with him. This month her expose of her experiences with DSK, entitled The Hypocrites Ball, was published.