My big knock on last night’s NYT bombshell was that it didn’t prove the accuser herself was engaged in any truly damning form of deceit. There’s $100,000 in her bank account — but it was deposited by other people, including an acquaintance who’s in prison on a drug charge. Maybe they were using her to hide their earnings, and who knows how much she knew about it. She’s got five different phone accounts after claiming that she had one, but it turns out her fiance and his friends are responsible for those. She “discussed” with the jailbird the possible benefits of pressing charges against DSK, but there’s no evidence to say whether she raised the money angle or if he did. And as for lying about having been raped in Guinea, it’s a blow to her credibility but not inexplicable. She wanted out of her country for a better life in America so she invented a story to make herself more sympathetic to asylum reviewers. Damaging and wrong, but possibly an act of desperation, not venality. And on top of it all, sources who spoke to the Daily Beast last month claimed that she was visibly distraught after the attack and during police questioning, to the point of physical trembling. That’s the part that seemed most ludicrous to me: Could this random refugee, evidently forced by circumstances to work as a maid, be such a master actress that she managed to fool the NYPD into yanking the next president of France off a jet sitting on the runway to charge him with sexual assault?
According to today’s DA letter to DSK’s lawyers: Yeah, maybe.
In interviews in connection with the investigation of this case, the complainant admitted that the above factual information, which she provided in connection with her asylum application, was false. She stated that she fabricated the statement with the assistance of a male who provided her with a cassette recording of the facts contained in the statement that she eventually submitted. She memorized these facts by listening to the recording repeatedly. In several interviews with prosecutors, she reiterated these falsehoods when questioned about her history and background, and stated that she did so in order to remain consistent with the statement that she had submitted as part of her application.
Additionally, in two separate interviews with assistant district attorneys assigned to the case, the complainant stated that she had been the victim of a gang rape in the past in her native country and provided details of the attack. During both of these interviews, the victim cried and appeared to be markedly distraught when recounting the incident. In subsequent interviews, she admitted that the gang rape had never occurred. Instead, she stated that she had lied about its occurrence and fabricated the details, and that this false incident was part of the narrative that she had been directed to memorize as part of her asylum application process. Presently, the complainant states that she would testify that she was raped in the past in her native country but in an incident different than the one that she described during initial interviews.
That’s not all. The DA’s letter also acknowledged that she lied to the grand jury about what happened immediately after the attack. She told them that after DSK supposedly assaulted her, she ran into the hallway and waited for him to leave the hotel; later she told cops it wasn’t true, that she’d actually gone and cleaned another room — and then returned to DSK’s suite and started to clean that too before reporting the attack to her supervisor. Said one law enforcement official to the New York Post, “She’s a con artist.”
Another curious detail that I hadn’t heard of until now:
The only other information that might have cast doubt about the presumed victim’s story was a rumor reported by the New York Post, a tabloid with good police sources but not known for its reliability. The rumor was that the alleged victim had asked her superiors if she could replace an absent colleague on the VIP floor — the floor where Strauss-Kahn occupied suite 2806. The veteran chambermaid was not out of the loop insofar as information went: she was a union member, and photographs of celebrity guests were often put up in the maids’ changing rooms in the hotel basement.
Just a “rumor,” but there you go. Her original attorneys also quit at some point for reasons unknown, whereupon the accuser hired another, more media-friendly lawyer. So that settles that, right? DSK was released today on his own recognizance while the lawyers plot their next steps, and now all that’s left to do is to dismiss the charges. Or is it?
Prosecutors also believe some of her account of her activities in the hours surrounding the alleged attack wasn’t true, though they haven’t necessarily reached a new conclusion about the incident itself, the official said. They have not decided whether to downgrade the charges, the official said.
The charges remain intact as of this evening, in fact. Why? Because, according to the woman’s lawyer, there’s more physical evidence than you might have thought:
Thompson claimed that there is substantial forensic and medical evidence that will be revealed in court. He said that Strauss-Kahn ripped the woman’s pantyhose, tore a ligament in her shoulder and grabbed her so hard that he caused visible bruising on her vagina. The woman said that Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex, after which Thompson said she crawled away from Strauss-Kahn, and as she was fleeing, she spit his semen on the floor and wall of the hotel suite. Thompson claimed that all of the details had been documented by crime scene investigators and would be revealed in the trial.
If the forensic evidence is as damning as Thompson claims, speculation about the case’s demise might be premature. Manhattan prosecutors won a recent case where the rape victim was a prostitute. In that case, which is detailed in the new HBO documentary Sex Crimes Unit, Assistant District Attorney Coleen Balbert told the jury that no one, not even a prostitute, deserves to be raped.
I honestly don’t know what to think. I feel like a moron for having said how proud I was of the NYPD for not letting this guy off the hook when the case first broke, but … I’m still not sure they did the wrong thing. What should they have done? They had physical evidence and, apparently, a very convincing victim; the man accused turned out to be notorious for his indiscretions with women back home, including an allegation from one French woman that he attacked her like a “rutting chimpanzee.” If they had let the plane take off, he would have never returned and placed himself in legal jeopardy. Ironically, it was precisely because he was a foreigner and a diplomat that they had to make a hasty decision to arrest him rather than quietly pursue the case and decide later whether there was enough evidence to prosecute.
Which, it appears, there isn’t. I can’t imagine them getting a conviction with this many strikes against the accuser’s credibility, especially the details about how good an actress she is when she wants to be. His defense team will claim that one of her shady friends was responsible for the physical injuries to her, and then there’ll be almost nothing left to try to get to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” They’re refusing to dismiss the charges now, I assume, because they’re hoping he might plead guilty to some lesser offense to help them save face, but I’m not sure why he would. What possible card could the DA have left to play that would put his acquittal back in doubt? I’ll say this for him, too: If they do think he’s actually innocent and not just unconvictable due to the accuser’s past, they owe him a very public, shinola-eating statement to that effect. Clear him, forthrightly. If they refuse, then either they’re horribly petty in their ability to own up to their own error or they think this guy actually did it. That’s the likely last act in this surreal drama.
Exit question: Seriously, is DSK about to ride a sympathy vote to frontrunner status in France’s presidential race? Before you answer, read this Time piece about the cultural currents racing around the story back home right now. Even if he’s innocent, French women are rightly more sensitive than ever to the excesses of male privilege among the political class. And parenthetically: If he is elected, the first meeting between him and The One’s going to be mighty awkward, huh?