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Behind the Scenes of How the DSK Case Fell Apart

By Murray Weiss | August 22, 2011 3:45pm | Updated on August 22, 2011 5:50pm
Strauss-Kahn at a bail hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Strauss-Kahn at a bail hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court.
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Pool photo by Richard Drew

The decision to dump the rape charge against Dominique Strauss-Kahn evolved during weekly mock trials and brainstorming sessions, where a team of top Manhattan prosecutors and investigators pored over the evidence like military tacticians playing out war games.

In a conference room on the eighth floor of the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., the legal pieces of the devolving case were moved around the table.

The prosecutorial team held mock trials role-playing the accuser and her defense attorneys. They laid out the evidence that supported the rape charge. They read her statements about what had occurred. They wanted to salvage the case and live up to their sworn duty to help a victim have her day in court.

But the prosecutors who played defense lawyers held the stronger hand, ripping apart the flaws and inconsistencies not only in the evidence, but in supposed star witness Nafissatou Diallo, the Sofitel Hotel chambermaid who claimed she was attacked by Strauss-Kahn.

In the end, Vance and his team knew there was only one person’s rights they had to protect — and it was Strauss-Kahn. The DA had no case beyond a reasonable doubt.

I reported last Friday that the tipping points came from two revelations.

One was the final analysis of Diallo's telephone conversation with her imprisoned con-man ex-boyfriend the day after the alleged rape. The translation, provided by a translator chosen by prosecutors and Diallo's attorney, showed she was interested in DSK's money.

The other was the fact Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, engaged in sex the night before the alleged rape and that the encounter might be used by DSK's attorneys to explain away some of her most private bruises.

So Diallo had sex the night before the attack and then discussed DSK’s wealth and how she might benefit from the attack. There is nothing wrong inherently with either fact. But those were far from the only problems with the case.

There were bank accounts in Diallo's name, through which more than $60,000 has passed, but she claimed to know nothing about them. Her immigration papers contained a fabricated story of rape in her homeland and genital mutilation that she repeated with such certainly that investigators became teary-eyed. Problem was it was untrue. She even cheated on her tax returns.

Investigators were the first to unearth the disturbing pattern. Even the most open-minded could not believe her. Experience gained over decades of investigating murderers and rapists told them there were too many issues about her credibility to believe what she was saying actually occurred in Room 2608 of the Sofitel in May.

Yet, prosecutors continued to hold roundtable legal and strategy sessions, culling law books for cases to support going forward with Diallo as their key, but troubled, witness.

They even brought in other skilled lawyers from their office who were not directly involved in the case. They wanted fresh eyes and ears to examine the evidence in the event there was something they missed.

Finally, after the new revelations and others surfaced recently, the hard reality set in. The case was dead. Sex-crime experts know that somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent of all rape allegations are proven to be false. And I mean untrue and recanted — not just impossible to prove.

Vance late yesterday laid out a very detailed, legalese-filled account as to why the case needs to be dismissed. It described the evidence in Diallo's favor, but it will also eviscerate the legal bedrock to go forward, laying out the lies, the difficulty with their own star witness and the new revelations that have handcuffed their prosecution — and forced those on Strauss-Kahn to be permanently released.