French Legal Threat Against DSK Lifted, But Taint Remains

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Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. September 28, 2011. (Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters)

Less than a week after French prosecutors dropped their criminal investigation for attempted rape against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the woman who brought the charges against the former International Monetary Fund chief said Wednesday morning she won’t pursue her accusations further with a civil suit. The decision announced by writer Tristane Banon to end her legal efforts to bring Strauss-Kahn to trial for what she says was sexual assault committed during a 2003 interview means only one New York civil case still remains from the tempest of threats that swirled following DSK’s May arrest on accusations of attempted rape. And even that may not make it to court.

But rather than the horizon of scandal appearing to clear with the news, other indicators suggest the former favorite to win France’s 2012 presidential race may well be dogged by the allegations of sexual misconduct—and the reputation as a sexual predator—that engulfed him since his Manhattan arrest for some time yet.


In both Paris and New York, justice officials dropped their cases as too legally troubled to persecute; neither cleared DSK of accusations made against him, nor by declared them false. Indeed, in announcing their decision Oct. 13 to drop the attempted rape investigation against him for insufficient evidence, French prosecutors noted they had substantiated “sexual aggression” had taken place during the 2003 encounter. (The expired three-year statute of limitations on the offense had run out, however.) Since then, French reports have stated prosecutors’ based their conviction sexual assault had been committed based on Strauss-Kahn’s own testimony that he’d taken a run at Banon—saying he stopped when she protested in fury. Clearly, officials didn’t feel DSK halted his pass quickly enough to dismiss it as a mere flirt.

The cloud of suspicion dogging Strauss-Kahn managed to darken further following that ruling. On Oct. 15, Strauss-Kahn was forced to publicly demand to be interrogated by police after French press reports linked him to investigations into a prostitution ring in the northern city of Lille. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers denied he was in anyway involved in the ring or the inquiry into it, and demanded the end to “dangerous and malicious insinuations and extrapolations” targeting him. In all fairness, they’ve got a bit of a gripe at this point regarding the Lille case. Thus far, allegations implicating Strauss-Kahn to the Lille saga—and some reports relating them are giving considerably more weight to unsubstantiated suspicion and unidentified sources than they are to presumption of innocence. That, however, may well be the grim reality DSK faces in the months to come, as he face a press, public, and political class that remains marked by the details of his 2011 drama.

It remains to be seen whether the civil suit filed by his New York accuser, Nafissatou Diallo clears efforts by DSK’s American lawyers to have it dismissed before going to court. Time will also tell whether reports tying Strauss-Kahn to the Lille investigation were accurate or not. But the albatross of sexual misconduct currently casting a shadow everywhere Strauss-Kahn goes isn’t going to vanish any time soon. In announcing her decision not to pursue her case Tuesday, Banon went out of her way to make that point. She said she’d continue fighting to raise public consciousness—and get tougher laws passed—to help combat sexual assault in France that Banon calls all too frequent and unpunished. She also told French TV channel Canal Plus of many of the messages of support and thanks she received from women during her controversial legal campaign against Strauss-Kahn. And in revealing her transformation from plaintiff to activist, Banon said she considered prosecutors’ findings in her complaint against Strauss-Kahn–whose lawyers at one point called her allegations “imaginary”—a moral victory, despite its disappointing legal outcome.

“It’s a victory, because they called me a liar,” she said, before hinting her push to defend the victims of sexual assault is likely to use Strauss-Kahn as a kind of backdrop that DSK himself could hardly relish. “I would waited for him to apologize, but I think that’s too much to ask from this man. I (now) advise him, above all, to maintain a low profile.”

Probably not a bad idea–but also probably insufficient to keep DSK free of any associations he’d rather avoid from here on out..