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Jeers from angry hecklers were not enough to diminish Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s relief as he walked free from a New York court on Wednesday.
More than three months after a hotel maid made shocking claims that the former International Monetary Fund chief had tried to rape her, a judge dismissed the sexual assault charges against him.
Prosecutors had requested the charges were dropped, admitting they could not ask a jury to believe Nafissatou Diallo’s version of events when they did not believe it themselves.
As he left Manhattan’s state supreme court with wife Anne Sinclair, Strauss-Kahn finally broke his silence about his ordeal.
The 62-year-old said: “These past two and a half months have been a nightmare for me and my family.”
He thanked those who had believed in his innocence, adding that he was “most deeply grateful to my wife and family who have gone through this ordeal with me”.
He said: “We look forward to returning to our home and resuming something of a more normal life.”
Later, as he arrived back at the town house where he lived for weeks under house arrest, he added in French: “I’m relieved. I will speak more soon. It has been a nightmare. I want to go home.”
When he returns to France, Strauss-Kahn will be welcomed by calls from fellow socialists for him to resurrect a potential run for presidency next year.
But his reputation may be permanently damaged by the revelations of his womanising made in the international media over the last few weeks.
And he still faces an investigation into claims of attempted rape from 32-year-old writer Tristane Banon.
The lawyers for Guinean immigrant Diallo also say they will now pursue a civil case against the man known as DSK.
Although prosecutors said they uncovered a string of lies that the 32-year-old hotel maid had told about her past and her behaviour after the alleged attack, her supporters claim that does not mean she invented her alleged ordeal in Strauss-Kahn’s suite. As the Frenchman left the court, a noisy group of some 30 protesters greeted his six-vehicle motorcade with chants of “DSK, shame on you” and waved placards bearing slogans such as “DSK treats women like property” and “All rape victims deserve a fair trial”.
But prosecutors told the court that the serious credibility issues surrounding Diallo meant they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
They argued that DNA evidence showed sexual contact - but not necessarily a forced encounter - between the guest and the maid, prompting them to decree that the medical evidence was inconclusive.
Newly released court papers revealed that Diallo “dropped to the floor and physically rolled around weeping” after prosecutors confronted her with evidence of her apparent lies. She later explained that she “wasn’t under oath” when she told them.
The prosecution said she lied to them “on matters great and small”, including her claim to having been gang-raped by soldiers in Guinea.
Had the case gone ahead, defence lawyers had been expected to argue that Strauss-Kahn had consensual sex with the maid.
Ben Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, reinforced that message after Wednesday’s hearing.
He said: “This was not a forcible encounter. You can engage in inappropriate behaviour, perhaps, but it is not criminal.”
William Taylor, another lawyer acting for Strauss-Kahn, added: “It’s a little difficult to be overjoyed about this situation.
“Ninety days ago I had to visit Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Rikers Island (prison) in an orange jumpsuit.
“What a turnaround. What a remarkable change in the life of a criminal case. What a tragedy for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.”
Brafman said it was difficult for outsiders to “grasp the full measure” of his client’s “relief”, adding that Strauss-Kahn would stay in New York in the short term. - Daily Mail