On Tuesday, a New York judge dropped the rape charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund. The judge acted at the request of the Manhattan District Attorney, who argued that his case against Strauss-Kahn is ruined. The District Attorney noted that the evidence of two critical elements – force and lack of consent – would consist solely of the victim’s testimony. “It has become increasingly clear that the complainant’s credibility cannot withstand the most basic evaluation.” The District Attorney thinks he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim’s encounter with Strauss-Kahn was rape and not consensual sex.
Prosecutors claim the victim – Nafissatou Diallo – is not credible because she lied on her asylum application and other government documents. They also argued that she provided inconsistent accounts of her actions following the alleged rape. The District Attorney’s motion to dismiss the charges says Diallo first told police she fled Strauss-Kahn’s room and immediately reported the rape to her supervisor. Prosecutors argue she later admitted to cleaning more rooms before speaking to her supervisor, asking her if hotel guests were allowed to force themselves on hotel maids.
The victim admittedly lied on her asylum application. Though Diallo maintains that she was raped in her native Guinea, she admits she exaggerated the story and characterized it as a gang rape by soldiers. Even if that’s true, it makes her a less credible witness. She has a history of exaggerated claims of rape.
The other incidents mentioned by the District Attorney are a more dubious reason for dropping the charges. Diallo argues that any inconsistencies are the result of confusion and inaccuracies in translation. Her attorney argues that hotel records disprove prosecutors’ version of events following the alleged rape. He also points to medical records that substantiate Diallo’s allegations.
Diallo’s testimony might not hold up in court, but Strauss-Kahn may yet be convicted in the court of public opinion. Although evidence of other sexual assault charges against him would not have been admitted at his criminal trial, Diallo and an alleged victim in France have filed civil suits against the wealthy and powerful politician. He has no future in politics.
When Strauss-Kahn was arrested, many Americans applauded New York authorities for holding this powerful man accountable for assaulting a hotel maid. Prosecutors have squandered that reassuring sense of justice. They should have faith in ordinary Americans on a jury to understand why a mother might lie for a chance of a better life for her children. Prosecutors must zealously pursue justice. They shouldn’t drop charges because they are afraid of losing a high-profile case. A man accused of rape goes free – not because he appears innocent, but because the victim was guilty of lying.