Dominique Strauss-Kahn allegedly was looking for love, or at least his version of it, from the moment he checked into his hotel in New York City last Friday, May 13. As soon as he got to his suite, 2806, he called back down to the front desk and asked the receptionist if she would like to join him for a drink, according to sources familiar with the prosecution’s case against the former head of the International Monetary Fund and contender for the presidency of France. The receptionist demurred.
Watch: Staking Out Strauss-Kahn
The next day New York City Police detectives detained Strauss-Kahn because a 32-year-old chambermaid alleged that he attacked her when she went to clean 2806. He appeared naked when she entered the bedroom, grabbing her breasts from behind as she tried to get out the front door, pulling down her panty hose and eventually forcing her to perform fellatio on him. Strauss-Kahn was indicted Thursday on seven counts including criminal sexual assault, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment.
“Experienced detectives found the complainant’s story to be credible and continued to find it so,” says Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, who declined further comment on the case pending the trial.
Strauss-Kahn has strongly denied all charges. On Thursday he was ordered released from the Rikers Island jail on $1 million cash bail, and will remain under surveillance, wearing an ankle bracelet, at an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Much of the case against him is based on the chambermaid’s account. “Experienced detectives found the complainant’s story to be credible and continued to find it so,” says Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, who declined further comment on the case pending the trial.
But other evidence has been collected that adds potentially damning details, including the testimony of the receptionist. When the police subsequently combed the alleged crime scene for DNA samples, according to sources familiar with the investigation, they were looking specifically for saliva samples from the chambermaid, who said she spit several times as Strauss-Kahn allegedly compelled her to give him oral sex. I was not able to learn if the results were conclusive.
Lawyers for the former IMF chief raise questions about the chronology offered by police and prosecutors which implied that a panicked Strauss-Kahn fled the hotel in a great hurry after the alleged assault. If the assault happened around noon, it is a matter of record that Strauss-Kahn checked out before 12:30. “He must be a very fast dresser,” says one law enforcement official. French sources familiar with the case told me the day after the arrest that Strauss-Kahn had lunch with his daughter Camille before leaving for the airport. But some members of the prosecution team tell me they are skeptical that the lunch ever took place. They believe Strauss-Kahn went straight to the airport and arrived there about 45 minutes after he checked out of the hotel, so, at about 1:15 for the 4:40 flight to Paris that he had booked several days before.
The alleged victim, whose name The Daily Beast and many other publications have decided not to print, reported the incident to hotel security immediately, according to law enforcement sources. But the 911 emergency call was not made to the police until 1:30, and the first cops did not arrive on the scene until 13 minutes later. Then they waited for a supervisor.
After initial questioning the housekeeper was taken to Saint Luke’s Hospital, one of 18 medical facilities in the city where there are staff specially trained to examine victims of sex crimes. She was questioned repeatedly about details of the alleged assault, and her story remained consistent throughout.
The police gathering evidence at the Sofitel at that point, almost three hours after the crime supposedly took place, had no idea where Strauss-Kahn had gone, and until they were informed by the hotel staff, several of them had never heard of him. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Strauss-Kahn called the hotel. He said he thought he might have forgotten one of his cell phones in the suite.
Coached by the NYPD detectives, a member of the hotel staff offered to have the phone delivered to Strauss-Kahn at the airport. The police worried at first this extraordinary bit of service would arouse his suspicions, but the hotel staff assured them that VIPs would see this sort of thing as perfectly normal. In fact, contrary to initial reports, there was no phone actually found in the room. None of Strauss-Kahn’s effects had been left behind (apparently he was as quick a packer as he was a dresser). But the delivery was made anyway. “Instead of a phone,” said one cop, “we brought him handcuffs.”
Christopher Dickey is the Paris bureau chief and Middle East editor for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He is the author of six books, including Summer of Deliverance, and most recently Securing the City: Inside America's Best Counterterror Force—the NYPD.