Was the rape claim made by hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo against former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn a planned attempt to “embarrass him with a scandal,” perhaps at the hands of French President Sarkozy’s UMP party? That’s one possibility hinted at in the question-mark-filled Edward Jay Epstein investigation over the weekend. If there were a conspiracy afoot, Epstein implies that the French luxury hotel chain Sofitel, where the assault or tryst occurred, could have been in on it based on a few curious pieces of evidence, all of which the hotel is now denying or explaining away.
A statement by the French Accor Group, which manages the Sofitel chain, calls the report, which ran in the New York Review of Books “inaccurate and speculative.” The company claims to have “cooperated with law enforcement authorities for the entirety of this case as was its civic and legal obligation.” The hotel was implicated specifically on three main points:
1. The Odd Employee Celebration
Epstein describes security footage from the New York City hotel that shows Sofitel chief engineer Brian Yearwood and an “unidentified man” doing “what looks like an extraordinary dance of celebration that lasts for three minutes” after receiving a text message from the hotel’s security chief John Sheehan, who had just made a call to a mysterious Frenchman at a 646 number (more on that in a minute). The hotel staff was questioning Diallo, but had not yet alerted police.
The hotel says: “In fact, the incident in question lasted only 8 seconds and both employees categorically deny this exchange had anything to do with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.” The Daily Beast reports that the employees “couldn’t recall the exact reason for their fleeting celebratory behavior but that they believed it may have involved sports, which they frequently talked about.”
2. The (Maybe) Shadowy Guest in Room 2820
Epstein reports that Diallo repeatedly entered a room near DSK’s both before and after the alleged assault, but told investigators otherwise, which was “inexplicable” to the prosecution, who ultimately passed on the case citing Diallo’s inconsistencies. Epstein writes: “We still do not know if there was anyone in 2820 when she entered it again following the encounter with DSK or if, prior to the police arriving, anyone influenced her to omit mention of room 2820.”
The hotel says: “The hotel’s digital history indicates the guest checked out of this room at 11:36 a.m. with the housekeeper cleaning the room shortly thereafter … Again, the innuendo that the guest in Room 2820 was involved in the incident is false and utterly baseless.”
The Daily Beast reports:
Diallo explained the first two times she keyed the room, the guest was still present and asked for more time to check out. The third time, she said, she went in and cleaned the room before proceeding to Strauss-Kahn’s suite around 12:06 p.m. She alleges she was brutally attacked after entering DSK’s suite. Diallo said she returned to Room 2820 briefly after the incident to pick up her cleaning gear.
3. The 646 Call
Epstein writes that Sheehan “called a number with a 646 prefix in the United States. But from these records neither the name nor the location of the person he called can be determined. When I called the number a man with a heavy French accent answered and asked whom I wanted to speak with at Accor.” He guesses that Sheehan might have been reaching out to his Accor supervisor, who happens to be friends with a member of the Sarkozy administration.
The hotel says: Yes, Sheehan called his supervisor at Accor, because that’s proper protocol when reporting an incident at one of the chain’s hotels.