The Strauss-Kahn Reversal

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF head and generally-recognized favorite to become the next president of France, will appear in court today to request a reduction of his $6 million bail and expensive house arrest provisions, as the credibility of his accuser has come into question.

The New York Times claims the case against DSK “is on the verge of collapse, as investigators have uncovered major holes in the credibility of the housekeeper who charged that he attacked her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May,” based on information from “two well-placed law enforcement officials.”

Among other things, the housekeeper reportedly spoke with an incarcerated marijuana smuggler over the phone about “the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him,” according to the Times.  The conversation was recorded by the prison authorities.  This person is said to have deposited over $100,000 into the housekeeper’s bank account over the past two years, from several different states.

The housekeeper has also been racking up hundreds of dollars in phone charges per month to five different phone companies, despite having insisted that she only has a single telephone, and she apparently lied to investigators about having sought asylum in the United States from her native Ghana because she had been previously raped.

Of course, it’s possible the housekeeper has a fishy background and ties to a marijuana-smuggling ring, and was nevertheless the victim of a sexual assault.  When it comes to determining credibility, it should be remembered that Strauss-Kahn initially lied about having some form of sexual encounter with the maid.  Forensic evidence subsequently established that such an encounter took place, at which point his story changed to claiming it was consensual – a kind of Penthouse letters-column fantasy in which the plump 62-year-old Frenchman with a history of aggressive sexual behavior emerged from the shower wrapped in a towel, and the surprised 32-year-old maid was driven mad with uncontrollable lust.

Strauss-Kahn’s defenders in France have alleged that the maid was a political assassin, hired by DSK’s enemies (specifically, current French president Nicholas Sarkozy or his supporters) to set up a rape charge that would derail Strauss-Kahn’s bid for the presidency.  Under this scenario, she would have initiated an encounter that DSK clearly wouldn’t invest much effort in resisting, then break it off suddenly and begin screaming rape. 

One other possibility that might explain the situation, and fit the available facts about both participants, is that the maid offered some extra-special room service to DSK on a fee-for-service basis, then changed her mind in the middle of the process.  Strauss-Kahn’s hasty flight from New York, and subsequent lies to the authorities, are consistent with the behavior of a panicked, privileged plutocrat who knew something bad just happened, and preferred to be on his home turf while sorting it out.

If the case against him collapses, Strauss-Kahn will return to France as a conquering hero, to the applause of supporters who already see him as a victim of benighted American Puritanism.  Even if the charges against him prove out, he will be seen in some quarters as having merely pushed his royal privileges against an irrelevant member of the unwashed masses a bit too aggressively.  If he actually beats the rap, I wouldn’t bet against him winning the upcoming French presidential election in a landslide.