Fordham Law

Breaking Silence Is Not a Sure Bet for Strauss-Kahn Accuser, Experts Say

Jim Cohen in WNYC, July 25, 2011

Media Source

by By Ailsa Chang

Now that the hotel housekeeper who accused ex-International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault has gone to the press with her account of what happened, legal experts are debating whether the media appearances will help or hurt her credibility.

Questions about the viability of the case surfaced when prosecutors revealed the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, lied on her asylum application, her income tax returns and in interviews with investigators.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers claim Diallo is putting on a media circus to pressure the District Attorney to prosecute the case.

"I think it's bad news for the defense side," said Jim Cohen of Fordham Law School. "On this particular matter, she came across, and intended to come across, as a truth teller. And she wanted to send that message both to the prosecutors and to the public."

Diallo told Newsweek that Strauss-Kahn attacked her "like a crazy man" in his posh Midtown hotel suite on May 14 as she begged him to stop.

"I push him. I get up. I wanted to scare him. I said, 'Look, there is my supervisor right there,"' she told the magazine.

But she said Strauss-Kahn tore her pantyhose, grabbed her crotch and then held her head in place to force her to perform oral sex on him.

Until now, the public has been fed a steady diet of unflattering theories about her private life. 

Jane Manning, a former sex crimes prosecutor in Queens, said the media appearances help humanize Diallo, but she could be setting herself up to be impeached on the witness stand.

"Most prosecutors don't want their witnesses to speak to the press before the case goes to trial, and there's a really simple reason for that," she said. "If a person is telling a story — even if you're 100 percent truthful — you never tell a story the same way twice."

Manning said defense lawyers will scrutinize her public accounts this week, and prey on any inconsistencies at trial. 

Even if the criminal case fails, Strauss-Kahn may not be off the hook.  The woman's lawyer has announced she intends to file a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn for allegedly sexually assaulting her.