By Marc Pitzke in New York
The case against former International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears to be in jeopardy following new revelations in the criminal proceedings against him in New York. Strauss-Kahn's attorney Ben Brafman confirmed to SPIEGEL ONLINE that his client is set to appear at a new hearing on Friday in New York's Supreme Court. He said the defense will seek to have the conditions of the French politician's house arrest eased.
The New York Times reported Thursday evening that the sexual assault case against Strauss-Kahn is "on the verge of collapse" because investigators have uncovered "major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper" he allegedly attacked in a New York hotel suite. The hotel housekeeper is the sole witness against the former IMF chief. Citing two well-placed law enforcement officials, the paper reported that "prosecutors now do not believe much of what the accuser has told them about the circumstances or about herself." One of the officials told the newspaper that the Guinean woman has "possible links to people involved in criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering."
Strauss-Kahn stands accused of attempted rape. According to the charges against him, the housekeeper claimed that Strauss-Kahn ripped her panty hose and tried to rape her as well as force her to perform oral sex in his hotel room on May 14. The former IMF chief has denied the allegations, but under the cloud of the charges and growing pressure, he resigned from the important international post only days after his arrest. He has been under house arrest since the end of May and is not permitted to leave his rented townhouse in Manhattan. In addition, Strauss-Kahn had to post a $6-million bail and agree to wear an electronic ankle bracelet. He is also being forced to bear the enormous costs of his mandatory detainment, including the security contingent watching over him, totalling some $250,000 a month.
Strauss-Kahn's next scheduled court appearance was to be on July 18, but attorney Brafman now says a new hearing has been scheduled for Friday. At the hearing, he said, the defense would request that the extraordinary bail conditions that have been imposed on Strauss-Kahn be eased. He did not provide any additional comment on the reasoning.
Trial Appears to Be Turning in Strauss-Kahn's Favor
These eased conditions, the New York Times reported, might even include his immediate release. Strauss-Kahn would have to hand in his passport, and would be allowed to travel freely within the United States, conditions which Judge Michael Obus would make a final ruling on. The fact that the defense is making the request suggests that the case is currently turning in Strauss-Kahn's favor. That the revelations are coming from prosecutors instead of the defense further strengthens these indications.
Forensics tests provided "unambiguous evidence" of a sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and the woman, the New York Times wrote, but even the prosecutors now do not believe much of what the alleged victim has said. One of the law enforcement officials cited by the newspaper said the 32-year-old had lied repeatedly since making her initial rape claim.
The paper reported that the day after Strauss-Kahn's arrest, the housekeeper "discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him" in a phone conversation with an incarcerated man that had been recorded. The man she spoke to had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. The New York Times reported that the man made multiple cash deposits into the woman's account over the past two years totalling around $100,000. Investigators also found inconsistencies in the asylum application she filed when she sought residency in the US.
'It Is a Mess, a Mess on Both Sides'
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have recently made clear that they would question the accuser's credibility. Attorney Brafman suggested in court that Strauss-Kahn had engaged in consensual sex with the housekeeper.
The New York Times reported that prosecutors from the office Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance plan to tell the judge on Friday they have "problems with the case" based on what their investigators have uncovered. The newspaper reported that the serious assault charges against Strauss-Kahn would likely not be sustained and that prosecutors might instead seek to force the former IMF chief to plead guilty to a misdemeanour, a move his lawyers would likely contest.
"It is a mess, a mess on both sides," a law enforcement official told the paper.
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