How prosecutors came to disbelieve black victim they had beatified

Although prosecutors’ suspicions of the accuser in the Strauss-Kahn case had been growing for several weeks, it was not until this past Tuesday that the final blow fell: they finally received the translation, from an obscure African dialect, of her telephone call with her imprisoned felon boyfriend one day after the incident in the hotel, in which she said, “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing.”

The remarkable saga of the slow yet spectacular unraveling of the accuser’s credibility over the past six weeks, published in today’s New York Times, also reveals that there had been disagreement in the DA’s office about whether or not to pursue a quick indictment of Strauss-Kahn. So now we’re finding out for the first time that some members of the DA’s office thought it was not wise to rush to indict him. But those who wanted the quick indictment prevailed, even though, in that first week after the incident, the prosecutors already had some doubts about the accuser’s veracity.

This supports Carol Iannone’s view that the prosecutors were acting with undue haste and assurance because the accuser was black, female, African, and (supposedly) poor. In those first days, they repeatedly told the public that the maid was completely on the up and up, absolutely reliable and honest—an almost saintlike widowed mother working hard to raise her daughter; and now they’ve had to turn around and admit that almost everything she had told them about herself—including her oppressed history in Guinea, her finances (it turned out she had received $100,000 from criminals over the past two years in addition to her salary from Sofitel but had concealed it in order to qualify for public housing), and even her movements in the hotel after the encounter with Strauss-Kahn—was a lie.

Here’s the article:

July 1, 2011
Strauss-Kahn Accuser’s Call Alarmed Prosecutors


Twenty-eight hours after a housekeeper at the Sofitel New York said she was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, she spoke by phone to a boyfriend in an immigration jail in Arizona.

Investigators with the Manhattan district attorney’s office learned the call had been recorded and had it translated from a “unique dialect of Fulani,” a language from the woman’s native country, Guinea, according to a well-placed law enforcement official.

When the conversation was translated—a job completed only this Wednesday—investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” the official said.

It was another ground-shifting revelation in a continuing series of troubling statements, fabrications and associations that unraveled the case and upended prosecutors’ view of the woman. Once, in the hours after she said she was attacked on May 14, she’d been a “very pious, devout Muslim woman, shattered by this experience,” the official said—a seemingly ideal witness.

Little by little, her credibility as a witness crumbled—she had lied about her immigration, about being gang raped in Guinea, about her experiences in her homeland and about her finances, according to two law enforcement officials. She had been linked to people suspected of crimes. She changed her account of what she did immediately after the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Sit-downs with prosecutors became tense, even angry. Initially composed, she later collapsed in tears and got down on the floor during questioning. She became unavailable to investigators from the district attorney’s office for days at a time.

Now the phone call raised yet another problem: it seemed as if she hoped to profit from whatever occurred in Suite 2806.

The story of the woman’s six-week journey from seemingly credible victim, in the eyes of prosecutors, to a deeply unreliable witness, is drawn from interviews with law enforcement officials, statements from the woman’s lawyer and a letter from prosecutors to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s defense team released in court on Friday. Some of the events were confirmed by both law enforcement officials and the women’s lawyer; others rely solely on law enforcement officials. In the end, it was the prosecutors’ assessment of the housekeeper’s credibility that led them to downgrade their confidence in the case and agree on Friday that Mr. Strauss-Kahn could be freed from house arrest.

In the beginning, her relationship with prosecutors was strong. Her account seemed solid. Over time, the well-placed official said, they discovered that she was capable of telling multiple, inconsistent versions of what appeared to be important episodes in her life. After the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn, she asked her supervisor at Sofitel, “Can any guest at the hotel do anything they want with us?” her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, said during a sidewalk press conference on Friday defending her.

The supervisor called security, and officers, finding semen on the floor and wall, called the police, setting off the quick chain of events that led to police officers escorting Mr. Strauss-Kahn off an Air France plane set to depart Kennedy International Airport.

Suspicions of the woman’s associations arose relatively quickly: within a week of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, the authorities learned of a recorded conversation between the subject of a drug investigation and another man, who said his companion was the woman involved in the Strauss-Kahn matter, according to another law enforcement official.

Prosecutors and investigators interviewed the woman at length.

Her immigration history was a focus. At first, she told them what she told immigration officials seven years ago in her accounts of how she fled Guinea and her application for asylum on Dec. 30, 2004. She described soldiers destroying the home where she lived with her husband, and said they were both beaten because of their opposition to the regime. She said her husband died in jail.

But then, in a subsequent interview with Manhattan prosecutors, she said the story was false, one she had been urged to tell by a man who gave it to her on a cassette recording to memorize. She had listened to the recording repeatedly.

The housekeeper also told investigators that she had been gang raped in Guinea. She cried and became “markedly distraught when recounting the incident,” according to a letter to the defense from prosecutors released Friday. But she later admitted that that, too, was a lie, once again one she had told to help her application for asylum. She said she was indeed raped in Guinea, but not in the way she had described.

Her lawyer, Mr. Thompson, said she was desperate to leave Guinea, and had been encouraged to embellish her application for asylum.

The boyfriend in the Arizona detention center was another issue. He had been arrested while bartering counterfeit designer clothing from Manhattan’s Chinatown for marijuana in the Southwest, the well-placed law enforcement official said. Her lawyer said she did not know the man was “a drug dealer.”

Meanwhile, as the interviews continued, the relationship grew more strained. During a meeting at the district attorney’s office on June 9, the woman wept as she was questioned closely after Mr. Thompson had left for another engagement. Her 15-year-old daughter, who was waiting outside, noticed that her mother was upset and called a relative to alert Mr. Thompson. The lawyer called the prosecutors and demanded an end to the questioning. He said on Friday that the daughter heard them shout, “Get out! Get out! Get out of here!” at her mother. The authorities say there was no shouting.

At another meeting, the woman threw herself to the floor in response to questions, the well-placed official said.

Then, for some 10 days, prosecutors were unable to get Mr. Thompson to bring her in; the lawyer said she was being treated for a shoulder injury that she suffered in the attack, an injury she had not reported earlier.

The final meeting occurred on Tuesday in the seventh-floor offices of the district attorney at 1 Hogan Place. It began at 11 a.m. and lasted five or six hours, except for a short lunch break, around an oval table in a conference room in the offices of the Public Integrity Unit.

It was devastating. In recent weeks, investigators collected bank records showing deposits of thousands of dollars in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania to an account in her name.

The woman had repeatedly said that the Sofitel was her only source of income.

Now, investigators confronted her with the bank records.

The woman, silent, turned to Mr. Thompson, seemingly pleading for direction on how to respond. He seemed startled.

“He was speechless,” the well-placed official said.

The district attorney’s office said the woman had lied about her income to maintain her public housing, and had claimed a friend’s child as her own dependant to increase her tax refund.

At the same meeting, the woman gave a new version of what she had done immediately after the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. In testimony before the grand jury in May, she said she had fled Suite 2806 to an area in the main hallway and waited until she saw Mr. Strauss-Kahn leave in an elevator. She has said that her supervisor arrived a short time later, and that she told her supervisor what had happened.

On Tuesday, the well-placed official said, she told investigators new details, stating, “I forgot to tell you this.”

In fact, she said, she left Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s room and entered another room—her lawyer said it was Suite 2820—and cleaned it, and then returned to Suite 2806 and cleaned it until her supervisor arrived.

“She did not know what to do,” her lawyer said. “She did not want to lose her job. She knew that her supervisor was going to be coming upstairs momentarily. So, she went into another room.”

And yet, even this version was not corroborated by card-key data obtained by investigators on Friday, which indicated that the housekeeper went to the other room only after she had finished Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s room.

Some within the district attorney’s office suggested that the rush to bring the case to a grand jury may have contributed to its current, weakened state.

Early on, there appeared to be disagreement in the office over how to proceed—whether to agree to a bail package for Mr. Strauss-Kahn and take more time to investigate before seeking his indictment, or whether to try to keep him locked up and quickly take the case to the grand jury for an indictment, according to three people involved in the case.

The office chose to seek a quick indictment, but a Manhattan judge let Mr. Strauss-Kahn out on bail anyway.

Mr. Thompson said that the housekeeper’s account of what took place in Suite 2806 is the only one that matters, and said that in the jail recording, she recounted a version of the encounter that matched what she had told the police.

“It’s a fact that the victim here has made some mistakes, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a rape victim,” Mr. Thompson said Friday.

The woman has been crushed that her inconsistent statements have been brought to light, Mr. Thompson said. “I will go to my grave knowing what this man did to me,” she told him on Friday, he said.

- end of initial entry -

Tim W. writes:

When this case first broke, I wrote this to you:

For decades elite liberals in the media and academia have been ignoring the enormous number of rapes of white women by blacks. Instead, they hoped for the Great White Rapist (or Rapists) of a woman of color. Their hopes came crashing down when the Tawana Brawley case and the Duke gang rape turned out to be hoaxes. Now they may finally have their rapist, but guess what? It’s one of them! An arrogant, spoiled, wealthy, politically correct limousine liberal. The disappointment must be terrible.

I was cautious enough to use “may” when discussing the possibility that DSK was a rapist. Maybe it’s best to always be cautious when dealing with a black person’s accusation against a white in today’s world. So the left still has no Great White Rapist. They’ll have to vent their frustrations by doubling down to censor the current wave of black-on-white flash mob attacks.

LA replies:

Let’s remember that a sexual encounter did take place in that hotel room. The police found DSK’s semen on the floor and the wall. They found other forensic evidence indicating that the sexual encounter was violent. But with the only witness for the prosecution exposed as a career liar and criminal, there is no way to prove that the way she said it happened, happened.

Let’s say the forensic evidence is half the case, and the maid’s testimony is the other half. Half a case is not a case.

It’s an interesting question how the French will be responding to this. Are they seeing DSK as being completely exonerated, and thus maybe back on track for the Socialist candidacy for president, or only part exonerated? Time to check in at Galliawatch.

Chuck Ross writes:

I just read Cyrus Vance Jr.’s Wikipedia page. I knew he was a Democrat, but I came across his list of campaign supporters. The list includes such liberal heavyweights as Gloria Steinem, Caroline Kennedy, RFK Jr., and David Dinkins. This gives me enough evidence to shift my belief towards blaming this DA for shooting for the stars here even while this case seemed shaky. The NYT gets separate blame for being hamstrung by feminists.

A former employee of the Manhattan’s District Attorney’s office writes:

You wrote:

“So now we’re finding out for the first time that some members of the DA’s office thought it was not wise to rush to indict him. But those who wanted the quick indictment prevailed, even though, in that first week after the incident, the prosecutors already had some doubts about the accuser’s veracity.”

Would it surprise you to learn that the very prosecutor, Lisa Friel, who fought vigorously (shouting match) against rushing to judgement in the DSK case, was the same prosecutor who was just forced to retire because of the recent HBO documentary, “Sex Crimes Unit” in which she was interviewed? She was called on the carpet by Vance because she was the supervisor in the case involving the two police officers who were just acquitted of rape. Interestingly, the comments made in the police case (said during the course of the filming) were made by the two investigators, not Lisa, and were left on the cutting room floor.

Lisa did not think the DSK victim was credible and wished to investigate further. Vance’s minions, seeking publicity, moved the case quickly to indictment, even appearing on the steps of the DAs office to have a press conference. This was something Morgenthau would never have done. Ironically, Vance’s hunger for publicity, which has been his mode of operation from his first days in office, has him hoist on his own petard. He is way over his head.

In my opinion, the fact that she was forced to retire had little to do with the HBO documentary.

LA replies:

It is extraordinary to learn from the commenter that the person who doubted the accuser’s veracity and was against proceeding with an indictment so quickly, but whose judgement was rejected, was not just any assistant DA, but the head of the Manhattan DA sex crime unit for the last ten years, Lisa Friel. As explained in this article about the documentary, “Sex Crimes Unit,” Friel is in charge of 40 senior assistant district attorneys. So for her judgment to be rejected, it would have to have been Vance who did it.

Story from the June 29 NYT:

Sex Crimes Chief in Office of Prosecutor Is Leaving Post

Lisa Friel, the chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s sex crimes unit for nearly a decade, is leaving that post, according to a memorandum circulated in the office on Wednesday.

The announcement comes at a pivotal moment, as the office handles one of its biggest sex-crimes prosecutions ever: the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

After nearly three decades in the district attorney’s office, “Lisa Friel has informed us of her decision to explore other professional opportunities outside the office,” said an e-mail to prosecutors in the office from Karen Friedman Agnifilo, the chief of the trial division.

“During the next two months, she will transition out of her role as chief of the sex-crimes unit,” Ms. Friedman Agnifilo wrote.

It remains unclear exactly what prompted Ms. Friel’s decision to leave the office and when she will do so. The district attorney’s office declined to comment on the matter. A phone message left for Ms. Friel on Wednesday evening was not immediately returned.

Martha Bashford, a co-chief of the forensic science and cold case unit, will step in as acting sex crimes chief on Thursday.

Although Ms. Friel made a court appearance early in the Strauss-Kahn case, she did not remain on the investigating team, several people with knowledge of the case have said. [cont.]

Also here’s a story from a website saying, unlike the Times (which says the reason for her departure is unknown) that Friel was fired for being interviewed in the HBO documentary and discussing current cases including the cops rape case.

I should add that the commenter has also told me in an earlier conversation (before this astounding reversal in the DSK case) that while the DA’s office under Morgenthau was very liberal politically, they always strove to do the right thing in dealing with cases. The commenter said that a change happened when Vance came in and many of the Morgenthau people were no longer wanted and were pushed out. It sounds to me as though, while the DA’s office are liberal (as before), they are no longer always striving to do the right thing in dealing with cases.

Chuck Ross writes:

I watched Vance yesterday during his press conference. He tried to adopt a laid-back demeanor during his statement and acted as if he was being a forthright public servant. Granted, as you linked today, the office didn’t learn of the woman’s conversation with her ex-husband until recently, but the thing that popped out at me was the statement that some people in the DA’s office were pushing harder for indictment while others thought that the process should be slowed down. We can only interpret this as Vance being the force behind immediate indictment—he is the DA after all! He makes final decisions.

It is too early to make any definitive statements on the matter, but we now have two DA’s—Vance and Nifong down in North Carolina during Duke lacrosse—who seem to be pushing really hard to get their Great White Whale as I like to call it. Vance wasn’t as criminal as Nifong or anything, but these little liberal slants manifest themselves in a variety of ways.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 02, 2011 05:59 AM | Send

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