Can one of the sleaziest tales in modern politics—one that changed the course of French history and titillated audiences around the world—finally be coming to an end? The New York Times and The Associated Press reported Thursday night that former International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the chambermaid who accused him of sexual assault in a Manhattan luxury hotel suite have reached an agreement to end her lawsuits against him and his countersuit.
Respected French daily Le Monde, citing unnamed sources close to Strauss-Kahn, reported Friday that the settlement agreed to is $6 million, of which $3 million will have to be raised by a bank loan and $3 million will be loaned to him by his wife, Anne Sinclair, an heiress and prominent journalist who now edits the French edition of The Huffington Post. Although she and Strauss-Kahn have been separated since last summer, she stood by him throughout the ordeal in 2011, posting his bail and helping to pay his attorneys and private investigators. The arrangement is not due to be signed officially until the end of next week. Three of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers in France said in a press release on Friday that neither they nor their client intend to comment on the U.S. case. The lawyers add that they "vigorously refute, however, the fanciful and erroneous information put forward by the newspaper Le Monde."
The original criminal charges lodged against Strauss-Kahn in May 2011 were dropped after a few weeks because the Manhattan district attorney’s office did not think the maid would be a credible witness if the case went to trial. According to the AP, citing a single unnamed source close to the civil case, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon facilitated the as yet unsigned settlement with Strauss-Kahn, as well as an agreement in principle to end the chambermaid’s suit against the New York Post for stories alleging she had taken money for sex in the past.
Before Strauss-Kahn’s sensational arrest last year, he was one of the most powerful men in the world. As head of the IMF, he played a vital role shoring up the faltering global economy, and he was about the declare himself a candidate for the presidency of France—a post many analysts thought he was sure to win.
But Strauss-Kahn, 63, was leading the private life of a “libertine,” as he has since admitted. When Nafissatou Diallo, a 33-year-old, illiterate African-immigrant maid entered his suite at the Manhattan Sofitel just as he stepped out of the shower, he appears to have thought she was just another player in his ongoing game of sex.
According to Diallo’s account in court records and an exclusive interview with Newsweek, Strauss-Kahn brutalized her and forced her to perform fellatio, which she finally consented to do, in part because, she claimed, she was afraid that if she hit him and hurt him she would lose her job.
Strauss-Kahn and his defenders have tried to suggest that he was set up, either by his political enemies to eliminate him from the presidential race or by Diallo for monetary reasons. But as other cases lodged against Strauss-Kahn in France unfolded in the wake of the arrest in Manhattan, the encounter at the Sofitel began to seem almost superfluous.
DSK, as the French call him, allegedly participated in orgies with women who turned out to be prostitutes—which he has not denied—and in the company of men seeking political influence. DSK’s main political rival, then-president Nicolas Sarkozy, was well aware of the police dossiers compiled against him. DSK had earlier admitted to an affair with a subordinate at the IMF and told reporters privately, long before his arrest, that his compulsive relations with women might hurt him in a presidential campaign.
No evidence has ever been presented to suggest that Diallo knew who Strauss-Kahn was before the alleged assault. Soon after news of the case broke, one of her boyfriends, who was incarcerated on drug-related charges in Arizona, was recorded on the phone suggesting to her that she might sue Strauss-Kahn, but there is nothing surprising about that in the highly litigious culture of the United States.
Ample DNA evidence and circumstantial testimony appeared to support Diallo’s allegations, and Manhattan prosecutors consistently said her story of the encounter itself was plausible. But because Diallo, a single mother, had a record of lying on her immigration-asylum request as well as on other papers and had associated with petty criminals, the prosecutors did not think they could make a case “beyond a reasonable doubt” against Strauss-Kahn in a criminal trial. A civil case, however, could have been decided on the basis of a preponderance of evidence.
Strauss-Kahn has acknowledged that there was a sexual encounter with Diallo, but has always insisted there was no question of force.