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Dominique Strauss-Kahn prosecutor tells why he dropped case

Cyrus Vance says he could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt what happened between then-IMF head and hotel maid

The prosecutor who charged Dominique Strauss-Kahn with sexually assaulting a hotel maid has said he dropped the case because he ultimately wasn’t sure what transpired between the two.

Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, dropped the case against the former leader of the International Monetary Fund in August. Prosecutors noted then in court papers that the decision reflected doubts about the woman’s overall credibility, not “factual findings” about what had occurred in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel suite in May.

“I determined that I was no longer convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I knew what happened – not that something didn’t happen, but whether we, as an office, knew beyond a reasonable doubt what happened,” Vance said at a law firm forum. “We did not have that quantum of confidence.”

It is one of the few times Vance has publicly answered questions about the case. His planned news conference shortly after the case’s dismissal had been abruptly cancelled when an earthquake rattled Manhattan – his office was evacuated just as he started speaking.

Strauss-Kahn was the head of the IMF and a likely French presidential candidate when hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo told authorities he had forced her to perform oral sex and tried to rape her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May 2011. Strauss-Kahn was taken off a Paris-bound plane, arrested and jailed for several days before being released to house arrest. He resigned from the IMF.

Strauss-Kahn, who is married, acknowledged an inappropriate sexual encounter but insisted there was no violence.

He was freed without bail about six weeks later, when prosecutors first revealed that they were losing faith in Diallo’s trustworthiness. They said she had not been truthful with them about her background and what she did immediately after the encounter. The prosecutor’s office investigated for several more weeks before asking a judge to dismiss the case.

“As a prosecutor you have to follow facts as you have them, when you have them. When those facts change you have to, as a responsible prosecutor, deal with [the changed outlook],” Vance told an audience on Wednesday at a New York legal firm.

One of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Benjamin Brafman, said on Wednesday that “what is important is that, ultimately, Cy Vance had the guts and integrity to dismiss the DSK case, a prosecution doomed to fail”.

Diallo is adamant that she told the truth about her encounter with Strauss-Kahn. One of her lawyers, Kenneth Thompson, has said Vance’s decision not to go forward with the case “denied an innocent woman a day in court”. She is pressing her claims in a private lawsuit.

Vance said on Wednesday that he wished New York law allowed more time for investigation and decision-making in the early stages of cases. Under state law someone charged with a felony can be held up to 144 hours without an indictment or hearing, unless the defendant agrees to waive the deadline.

“We could benefit, I think, from slightly more extended timetables,” Vance said.

But, he said, “there is no single thing that can change the complicated dynamic of determining who’s telling the truth between two strangers”. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds