Did Nafissatou Diallo look like she was not telling the whole truth on ABC News last week, when she revealed her identity to tell her story to Robin Roberts (she also gave an interview to Tina Brown of Newsweek)? I’m sorry to report that she did. It’s terribly humiliating for a woman to tell the world she has been sexually abused, which is part of why rape victims deserve the benefit of the doubt, but still, the dramatic hand gestures, the rolling tears, the beating of her breast as she insisted that, as “God is my witness, I’m telling the truth”—it was all a bit rich and clearly calculated as a last-ditch effort to get the D.A.’s office to bring the case, even though it had lost faith. Diallo’s young African-American lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, a former federal prosecutor who represented Abner Louima, has made no friends in this drama; even Ken Sunshine, the PR heavy he hired as an adviser, has largely sat back as Thompson has insisted on running this as his own show. “Thompson has one motivation in this situation: to get paid, and he doesn’t get a dime unless Diallo gets some money,” says a source. “He is working 100 percent on contingency.” A source says Thompson will receive one third of any settlement for Diallo (Thompson says this is “a lie”) and notes that he needs the criminal case to move forward in hopes of a large civil settlement. Thompson says he is filing the suit shortly, and though he hasn’t decided how much he will sue Strauss-Kahn for yet, it will likely be in the many millions of dollars. “Nafi is filing this suit because she wants to assert her dignity as a woman, and she has every right to do so,” says Thompson. “And let me tell you another thing: Almost every night, she and her daughter cry themselves to sleep.”
To press his case, Thompson has also called for Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance to recuse himself, stirred up questions about whether there has been pillow talk in the marriage between one of Vance’s prosecutors and a lawyer for Brafman, and even appeared at a D.A. office meeting with the equally publicity-seeking lawyer for Tristane Banon, a beautiful Parisian who has filed charges in France of attempted rape against Strauss-Kahn, who came at her, she has said, like a “rutting chimpanzee” eight years ago. Banon is known in Paris as a moderately employed journalist and the author of a series of semi-autobiographical books, one about a childhood spent with a “beautiful manipulator” of a mother who bore her out of wedlock and whom she used to despise, and another titled Daddy Frenzy, about her own father—like Strauss-Kahn, a Moroccan Jew—who abandoned her, she says, the day she was born. Last week, Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret, a backbencher in Socialist circles, declared that she too had had consensual sex with Strauss-Kahn in an office ten years ago (though he also made his approach with the “obscenity of a brutish soldier”), rendering this situation even more … confusing.
And where is Strauss-Kahn? He’s still in Tribeca, in the $50,000-a-month townhouse that Sinclair rented. She had originally set up refuge in a luxurious Upper East Side condo but was booted by tenants unwilling to reside next to “Pepe Le Perv.” Stuffed between two tall cast-iron buildings, the townhouse looks like a dollhouse, even though it has four bedrooms spread over 6,800 square feet plus a basement screening room and a landscaped terrace on the roof, which Strauss-Kahn has covered with some umbrellas to hide from lookie-loos. A group of international paparazzi, usually about a dozen or so, rush across the cobblestone street once or twice a day when Strauss-Kahn’s beefy arm opens the frosted glass door for registered mail or a food delivery, but the rest of his body often remains blurred, making the pictures unusable. The French guys, most of whom are being put up at the Soho Grand, wear clear-colored earpieces and work in a pack, ready to give chase. “It’s not so bad—get up early, have some eggs at the Grand hotel,” says one. “Then walk over here. And wait. And watch.”
This purgatory of boredom and stunning summer heat is punctuated only by occasional passersby: A woman on a bicycle shouts, “Checking out the criminal, huh,” as she careers by; a series of French tourists, their backpacks decorated with mini baseball mitts bought at Yankees games, take pictures while pretending to ring the townhouse’s bell (though we have been told that for the French, a man’s private life is supposed to remain private, they seem to be acting quite differently). “He is innocent, of course,” they say. “He is much too clever a man to be caught like that.” A feminist holds court: “What we have here is rape culture, where a woman says ‘I was raped’ and then the media starts asking questions—what was she doing, has she had sex with people before, was she wearing a short skirt, was she a prostitute? We think prostitutes can’t be raped, but they can.”