Dominique Strauss-Kahn Case: Maid Listens to Prison Tape

The accuser’s lawyer says a recording after the alleged attack does not show she schemed to make money.

AP Photo; Todd Heisler / AP Photo

The lawyer for the hotel maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault tells The Daily Beast that tape recordings in the possession of prosecutors capture her describing her alleged attack to an incarcerated friend less than 24 hours after it occurred in a manner consistent with what she told police and prosecutors.

The tapes also show a much different conversation about lawyers and money than what was leaked by authorities earlier this month in a newspaper report, attorney Kenneth Thompson said late Wednesday night after listening to the audio recordings for the first time.

Thompson and the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, 32, met Wednesday with the New York District Attorney’s Office for the first time in nearly a month after the relationship between the alleged victim and prosecutors fell apart over questions about her credibility.

The meeting came just days after Diallo described the attack in an exclusive interview with NEWSWEEK.

Strauss-Kahn was the head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading candidate for French president before Diallo accused him of attacking her and forcing her to have oral sex after she entered his luxury suite to clean it May 14 at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan.

After being arrested, Strauss-Kahn resigned his IMF post and has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and attempted rape in a case that has fascinated two continents and taken several dramatic turns.

After steadfastly standing by Diallo, prosecutors disclosed late last month they had serious reservations about her credibility after learning she lied to them about an earlier rape in her home country of Guinea, filed a false tax return, and lied on her application seeking asylum in the United States.

During an eight-hour session Wednesday, the prosecutors grilled Diallo about her conduct and contacts after the alleged attack, and they allowed her to listen for the first time to a tape-recorded conversation she had 24 hours after the alleged attack with Amara Tarawally, an illegal immigrant convicted on drug charges and being held in an Arizona detention center.

The call became a critical and tantalizing piece of evidence in the case after The New York Times reported July 1 that law-enforcement sources claimed the tape captured Diallo making a comment to the effect that her alleged attacker was rich and she knew what she was doing. The leak has since been used to suggest that Diallo may have schemed with her incarcerated friend to make money off Strauss-Kahn.

Diallo and Tarawally, in interviews with NEWSWEEK, also disputed the leaked version of the call.

Thompson said the tape was played Wednesday for Diallo in her native Fulani language and an interpreter explained what was on it. In all, the imprisoned friend called Diallo at least three times in the aftermath of the attack, according to Thompson.

“The tape they played today does not capture Nafi Diallo being recording as saying, ‘He has a lot of money and I know what to do,’ as was leaked to The New York Times,” Thompson said. “Instead it shows there were at least three calls over several days.

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“In the first call on the day after the attack, Ms. Diallo clearly reported to her friend in prison that ‘a man tried to rape me on my job. He is big and powerful. I did not know who he was when he attacked me. Because he couldn’t take off my clothes, he put his penis in my mouth.’ And she explained she tried to stop him,” the lawyer said in an interview.

Thompson said that in a later call, the prisoner called back to check on his friend after learning more about the man who allegedly attacked her. During that call, there were discussions about Strauss-Kahn’s wealth and the fact that Diallo had gotten a lawyer, but the quote attributed to Diallo in the leaked report was not on the tape, he said.

At one point, the tape shows Diallo learned after the fact that the man she accused was politically powerful and wealthy. She also acknowledged hiring an attorney, Thompson said.

“Later in the call the prisoner makes a statement like ‘you could get money from this.’ I take this to mean he was referring to a lawsuit,” Thompson explained as he related what the translator told him was on the tape. “Nafi Diallo’s first reaction is ‘wait, wait, wait,’ suggesting she wasn’t worried about that. She then makes a comment like ‘he can deal with it,’ which I took to mean her lawyer could deal with the issue.”

Thompson said he was angry after learning the tape recordings are different from what was leaked and that he conveyed his concerns to prosecutors during Wednesday’s meetings.

“For nearly a month, information has been leaked to the media that falsely portrays Ms. Diallo as scheming to take Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s money a day after he attempted to rape her,” Thompson said. “But what I heard today shows that Ms. Diallo has been telling the truth from the very beginning, that she was sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn while doing her job at the Sofitel.”

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment late Wednesday. They are continuing to investigate the evidence in the case as they try to determine whether to proceed to trial despite their concerns about the maid’s credibility or drop the charges. A decision is expected in weeks.