The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is "on the verge of collapse," according to the New York Times, after investigators uncovered serious issues with the credibility of the 32-year-old Guinean housekeeper who claims Strauss-Kahn attacked her in his suite at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan. Forensic tests have found evidence of a sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and the woman, but prosecutors reportedly do not believe most of what the accuser has told them about the circumstances of the attack or about herself. The accuser has "repeatedly lied" to law enforcement officials since her initial allegation against Strauss-Kahn, the Times reports, and investigators have discovered the woman's connections to people involved in drug dealing and money laundering.
On Friday, Justice Michael Obus is expected to consider easing the bail conditions that he set for Strauss-Kahn, and the French politician may be freed from house arrest and electronic monitoring altogether. The district attorney’s office may try to require Strauss-Kahn to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, but his lawyers are reportedly likely to protest it. Prosecutors from the office of the Manhattan district attorney plan to tell the judge that they “have problems with the case, though they won't ask for its dismissal” yet. The woman maintains that she was attacked.
DSK's lawyers planned to argue that the encounter was consensual, and deployed private investigators to look into her credibility. However, the Times reports it was the prosecution's own investigators who found the information that put her credibility in question. What did they find?
According to officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing 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 is 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.
She was also paying "hundreds of dollars" worth of phone bills for five different numbers. Sources told the Wall Street Journal that the woman first told them she had been the victim of a gang rape in Guinea, then later went back on her story, one of several inconsistencies.
As one anonymous official told the Times, "It is a mess, a mess on both sides." The revelations provide an "I told you so" moment for DSK supporters, many of whom had complained that the former finance minister had been unfairly made a spectacle of — forced to do a perp walk, ridiculed in the American media — before his guilt in the case had been proven. Le Monde, for instance, ran a gallery annotating the unfair "excesses" of the New York Post covers on the DSK case. Of the headline "Booty Gaul," Le Monde wrote, "As usual, the New York Post insists heavily on the nationality of DSK to highlight its appeal for sex."
And almost immediately, there were calls from the Socialist Party in his native France for DSK to return to politics, and even speculation he might restart a run for the presidency. Quickly, there was a story in Le Figaro offering that scenario as a strong and welcome possibility. "What's stopping him coming back if he has the strength and desire?" centrist politician Jean-Louis Borloo said on television. And: “I think Sarkozy and his friends are going to have a very unpleasant morning,” said one prominent Socialist, delighted at the prospect of a DSK return.
The Guardian quoted philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy, who had defended DSK, as expressing his "great joy for the man, his family, and for principle." Not everyone was so sure. From the Times:
“People are not going to forgive him. At a political level, he is dead,” said Agnès Bergé, 44, who works for a law firm in Neuilly. “It would be terrible for France if he came and if we give him some credit again.” [...]
[A] senior Socialist, who declined to be identified, said the party could not afford knee-jerk reactions. “What if we all embrace him again and then he turns out to be guilty after all? We have to wait for a clear and definite outcome before making any decisions,” he said. “Our voters have lost trust not just in him but the party. We have to be careful.”
Strauss-Kahn news stuns France as Socialists discuss political comeback [Guardian]
Strauss-Kahn Case Seen as in Jeopardy [NYT]
Twist in Strauss-Kahn Case [WSJ]
French media frenzy over Strauss-Kahn case 'doubts' [BBC]