New York -
Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the ex-IMF chief and onetime French presidential hopeful, are headed to court on Monday hoping to close the books on the New York sex scandal that destroyed his stellar career.
Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid who accuses the French economist of sexually assaulting her when she went to clean his luxury suite in May 2011, is also scheduled to appear with her lawyers at the hearing at the Bronx Supreme Court.
At issue is a settlement in the civil suit brought by Diallo - which would allow Strauss-Kahn to avoid the embarrassment of a civil trial and the potential for a jury to order a huge payout.
Justice Douglas McKeon said the hearing would likely be quick.
“The court session should not take more than 30 minutes,” he told AFP.
Strauss-Kahn, himself, was not expected to attend.
His lawyers have confirmed only that negotiations for a settlement were underway ahead of Monday's hearing and that they were “hoping” for a deal within days.
Specific terms of any possible settlement have been kept confidential, and Strauss-Kahn's lawyers dismissed as “dramatically inaccurate” a report in France's Le Monde newspaper that Diallo would be paid $6 million.
But former prosecutor Matthew Galluzzo said the figure is probably in the ballpark.
It's probably going to be “between three and ten million, most probably somewhere around five,” he told AFP.
Pre-trial settlements are extremely common in civil suits in the US, as a way to avoid the costly and unpredictable process of a trial before a jury.
A settlement is not an admission of guilt. But it does allow the accused to avoid giving their version of events.
If a deal is agreed in court, it will almost certainly make Diallo far richer than when she emigrated to the United States from Guinea and became a maid at the Manhattan Sofitel.
In exchange, Strauss-Kahn, 63, would finally be able to put behind him at least one part of the sordid affair that began with his arrest on a plane at John F Kennedy Airport hours after leaving the hotel on May 14, 2011.
Manhattan prosecutors wasted little time in bringing criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn and, instead of jetting to Europe for a planned meeting with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, he found himself spending several days in New York's tough Rikers Island detention centre.
With circus-like media coverage fanning the flames of Strauss-Kahn's disgrace, he resigned from the International Monetary Fund.
When prosecutors delivered a new shock in late August 2011 by dropping criminal charges and declaring that Diallo was not a credible witness, it was already too late for Strauss-Kahn to save his career.
He quickly left US soil for his native France.
By then, Diallo had filed her civil suit.
And Strauss-Kahn faced new sex charges, this time brought by French prosecutors, as the lid came off on the high-flier's covert but rampant appetite for extra-marital sex - and allegedly illegal ways of getting it.
Author Tristane Banon accused him of trying to rape her in 2003. Investigators concluded that while there was evidence of a sexual assault, the alleged attack had occurred too long ago to be prosecuted.
Another probe found that Strauss-Kahn participated in the gang rape of a Belgian prostitute. But it was eventually dropped when she recanted and said she had consented to any sex acts.
And on December 19, Strauss-Kahn will learn whether he faces further investigation into pimping charges arising from allegations that he and associates arranged sex parties with prostitutes for wealthy men.
The scandals buried Strauss-Kahn's hopes of claiming what many had thought would be a strong Socialist candidacy for the French presidency. His downfall also led to separation with his wife, art heiress Anne Sinclair.
However, he has recently made a quiet comeback as a business consultant and conference speaker. - Sapa-AFP