Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released on his own recognizance Friday after prosecutors said the credibility of the hotel housekeeper accusing him of sexual assault was called into question following an extensive background investigation.
A judge ended house arrest for the 62-year-old French politician who has been under armed guard in a Manhattan town house after posting a total of $6 million in cash bail and bond. He will be free to travel within the United States, but his passport remains surrendered and he cannot leave the country.
"It is a great relief," said William Taylor, Strauss-Kahn's attorney, adding "how easy it is for people to be charged with serious crimes and for there to be a rush to judgment."
The charges, which include attempted rape, have not been reduced, but the move signals that prosecutors do not believe the accusations are as ironclad as they once seemed.
"It is clear that the strength of the case has been affected by the substantial credibility issues relating to the complaining witness," Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said during the hearing in State Supreme Court in Manhattan before judge Michael Obus.
The prosecutors sent a written statement to Strauss-Kahn’s legal team on Thursday, informing them of the false information about the alleged victim that their investigation had unearthed.
In that statement, they said, the alleged victim initially told detectives and assistant district attorneys that after being sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn on May 14 in suite 2806 in the Sofitel Hotel in Midtown, she fled to the hallway and waited there until she saw the defendant leave.
But since then, prosecutors said, she has admitted she continued cleaning another room after the alleged incident, and then returned to suite 2806 and began to clean it before telling her supervisor what had allegedly occurred.
Outside the courtroom, Kenneth Thompson, the alleged victim’s attorney, vigorously defended his client and said she returned to cleaning because she was confused and afraid of losing her job. He said his client had been consistent with her story.
“She has described that sexual assault many times, to the prosecutors and to me, and she has never once changed a single thing about that account,” Thompson said.
The prosecutors also said statements the accuser has made about her past have proved to be untrue. In the asylum application she filed in 2004, the 32-year-old immigrant from Guinea, said her husband was killed and that she was beaten due to their opposition to the dictatorial regime that was then in power.
But during an investigation for this case, she admitted those statements were fabricated.
Additionally, the complainant also said she had been a victim of a gang rape in Guinea. Later, however, she stated she had fabricated the details of the occurrence.
Thompson said his client had “hyped up” the account of her life in Guinea for asylum application because she was led to believe that was necessary in order for it to be granted. She wanted to make sure, Thompson said, that her 15-year-old daughter would not suffer genital mutilation she went though herself.
Thompson accused the District Attorney’s office of mistreating his client and laying the ground for dismissal of the case, because they had recently lost other high profile cases, namely those against police officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, as well as the one involving the Deutsche Bank fire.
Thompson repeated, at times recounting the graphic details of the alleged sexual assault, that the forensic evidence corroborates his client’s story and that Strauss-Kahn bruised the woman's genitals, tore a ligament in her shoulder and ripped her stockings.
“The only defense that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has is that this sexual encounter was consensual,” Thompson said. “That is a lie.”
He announced his client would speak to the press in order to prove she is telling the truth.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters after the hearing that he was not dropping charges, but that his office had to reveal the findings of their investigations. He added that the treatment of the victim by his office had been fair.
“We have done nothing but support her,” Vance said. “We have done everything in our power to maintain her privacy and keep her safe.”
Strauss-Kahn left court smiling and embracing his wife, Anne Sinclair. Later his lawyer reflected on the timing of today’s hearing.
“I think it’s kind of appropriate that on the eve of Independence Day we get to celebrate for Mr. Strauss-Kahn and his family a bit of his personal independence,” Brafman said.