Last night, prosecutors in the case against ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn announced that they had serious doubts about the case’s viability, and today, a Manhattan judge responded to the lawyers by releasing Strauss-Kahn on his own recognizance. This is a shocking turn-around, given that until today, Strauss-Kahn was living under house arrest on $1 million bail. The case hinges on the credibility of the lead witness, the woman who Strauss-Kahn allegedly raped in his Manhattan hotel room during May.
Originally, prosecutors had seemed extremely confident about the case. At Strauss-Kahn’s first court appearance, the assistant district attorney explained that “the victim provided very powerful details consistent with violent sexual assault committed by the defendant.” Meanwhile Strauss-Kahn kept insisting that he was innocent and would be exonerated, because although he admitted that he had had a sexual encounter with the alleged victim, as forensic evidence verified, he claimed also that the contact was consensual.
Now, although the woman’s lawyers say that “from day one, she has described a violent sexual assault that Dominique Strauss-Kahn committed against her,” inconsistencies in her testimony may make it impossible for a judge to believe her, meaning that Strauss-Kahn could walk free. The New York Times elaborates on these new revelations:
“[The woman] had admitted lying in her application for asylum from Guinea…She also said that her claim that she had been the victim of a gang rape in Guinea was also a lie.”
And, in a turn which is also important for the case, the woman changed her story slightly about what she did after the sexual assault. She said initially that after the attack, she waited in a hallway until Strauss-Kahn left the room; now, she admits that she went to another room, cleaned it, and then returned to Strauss-Kahn’s suite before reporting the assault to her supervisor.
Strauss-Kahn’s defenders, who were formidable even when the case against him seemed certain, are now rallying again. People are beginning to ask whether Strauss-Kahn could make a political comeback. As the case progressed it seemed clear that Strauss-Kahn, who was previously seen as a serious contender for the French presidency, was politically dead. But now, French political experts say, all of that could change.
While the revelations about Strauss-Kahn’s alleged victim’s inconsistencies are shocking, it’s important to remember that the rape charges still stand. As Jill points out on Feministe, the fact that she changed her story about what happened immediately after the assault isn’t surprising, and even though she may have lied on her asylum application, that still doesn’t mean that she wasn’t assaulted.
The judge in Strauss-Kahn’s case clearly thinks that there are sufficient doubts to release him. But the case isn’t over, and we all need to remember that. And it’s way too soon to start speculating about a revival of Strauss-Kahn’s political career.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.