MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was formally dismissed by a Manhattan judge Tuesday, ending months of speculation about criminal charges against the French politician who was one of the world's most powerful financial leaders.
Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus made the ruling during the final hearing of a case that drew international attention after the high-profile arrest of the former International Monetary Fund director three months ago.
"Today, the district attorney has told the court that it does not believe that he is guilty," Strauss-Kahn attorney William Taylor told reporters after the hearing. "What a turnaround."
"Needless to say, we are glad that this is over," Taylor added.
Strauss-Kahn, who cracked a smile in the courtoom during Tuesday's proceeding, did not speak to reporters as he left the courthouse. He was escorted to a black SUV with his wife, Anne Sinclair, flanked by his legal team and security detail.
He released a statement shortly after the case's dismissal.
"These past two and a half months have been a nightmare for me and my family," the statement read. "I want to thank all the friends in France and in the United States who have believed in my innocence, and to the thousands of people who sent us their support personally and in writing. I am most deeply grateful to my wife and family who have gone through this ordeal with me."
Strauss-Kahn attorney Benjamin Brafman said it was a "courageous decision" by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s office to go before a judge and drop a case that just weeks ago looked like a slam dunk.
"Cy Vance, as an ethical officer of the court, had no choice but to do what he did," Brafman said. "Nevertheless, it took guts."
Strauss-Kahn was supposed to have his passport returned on Tuesday afternoon, but that was delayed after an earthquake forced the court to close.
He was not planning to travel Tuesday night anyway and was expecting to have it returned on Wednesday, Brafman told DNAinfo.
Vance's press conference on the outcome of the case was also interrupted by the tremors. He later released a prepared statement.
“After a careful and deliberative review of all the evidence, this team followed the facts where they led, and had to make a decision," Vance's statement read. "I believe the decision we made is absolutely the right one, legally and ethically."
Obus's ruling followed a 25-page motion by the DA's office on Monday detailing credibility problems with Strauss-Kahn's accuser, former Sofitel hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, 32.
On Tuesday's roughly 10-minute hearing, prosecutors further explained the decision to end the prosecution of Strauss-Kahn.
"The complainant was untruthful with us in virtually every substantive interview despite our repeated entreaties to her to simply be truthful," said Assistant District Attorney Joan lluzzi-Orbon. "She was untruthful about matters of great and small significance."
Diallo's attorney, Kenneth Thompson, filed an appeal asking the appellate court to appoint a special prosecutor to the case. That motion was denied shortly after the dismissal.
After the hearing Thompson blasted Vance for dropping the case, saying he had not only abandoned Diallo, but "he has also abandoned other women who will be raped in the future or will be sexually assaulted."
The Strauss-Kahn case began to crumble on July 1 when prosecutors publicly acknowledged there were significant issues with Diallo's credibility.
Prosecutors met for weeks to brainstorm ways to make the case work, even staging mock trials, sources told DNAinfo. But again and again, Diallo's credibility problem undermined their case.
Diallo told authorities Strauss-Kahn, 62, grabbed her breasts, forced her to perform oral sex and tried to rape her in Suite 2806 at the hotel on May 14. Authorities then rushed to JFK Airport and pulled Strauss-Kahn off an Air France flight.
He was initially held without bail because prosecutors worried he would flee the country to escape trial, even citing the similar case of director Roman Polanski.
Strauss-Kahn was sent to Rikers Island until his attorneys argued successfully for his release on $6 million bail to a TriBeCa townhouse.
Weeks later prosecutors revealed there were problems with Diallo's story, and they consented to Strauss-Kahn's unrestricted release without bail, asking for more time to investigate the allegations.
Prosecutors revealed Monday they had no confidence in Diallo.
"At the time of the indictment, all available evidence satisfied us that the complainant was reliable. But evidence gathered in our post-indictment investigation severely undermined her reliability as a witness in this case," the DA's office said in its motion to dismiss the case.
"If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, we cannot ask a jury to do so."