Strauss-Kahn accuser's credibility in focus

Updated at 10:58 a.m. ET

When Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a New York City hotel maid in May, questions about his past aggressive behavior toward women seemed to bolster the case against him.

Now, however, questions about his accuser's past have cast doubt on her credibility and may scuttle the French politician's prosecution.

According to a New York Times report, the 32-year-old hotel maid may be linked to drug dealing and possible money laundering. The unidentified woman also lied to investigators about previously being raped in her native Guinea, officials told the paper.

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The case began on May 14, when the maid told police that Strauss-Kahn chased her down a hallway in his $3,000-a-night suite in New York's Sofitel hotel, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex before she broke free.

"In the beginning, it was a strong case. There was a victim and several witnesses and forensic evidence that supported the victim's claim," a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.

The woman was in Strauss-Kahn's room only briefly before the alleged attack, his semen was found on her uniform, and she quickly reported the alleged assault and told a consistent story about it to investigators and prosecutors, the official said.

But from the beginning, Strauss-Kahn's attorneys have claimed to have the hotel encounter wasn't forcible, and that they have unreleased information that could "gravely undermine the credibility" of the housekeeper. The defense was using private investigators to aggressively check out the victim's background and her story, but the Times reported that it was investigators for the prosecution who uncovered discrepancies.

Among the revelations reported by the Times:

  • In the day following her accusations against Strauss-Kahn, the woman had a phone conversation with a man imprisoned and charged with possession of 400 pounds of marijuana. In the conversation, which was recorded, she spoke about possible benefits of pursuing the case, two officials told the paper.
  • Investigators discovered the imprisoned man was one of several people who deposited around $100,000 in cash in the woman's bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made from around the country - in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. The woman claimed to know nothing about the deposits, saying they were made by her fiancé and his friends.
  • The woman was also paying phone bills to five different companies, though she told investigators that she owned just one phone.
  • The woman told investigators that she reported a previous rape on her asylum application, but the application contained no such account.

    "She actually recounted the entire story to prosecutors and later said it was false," an official told the AP.

  • She also told investigators that she had been subjected to genital mutilation but that information also differed from what appeared on the application.

The woman's lawyer has said she is prepared to testify despite a "smear campaign" against her. She remains unnamed because she is still an alleged victim of sexual assault.

Prosecutors took the extraordinary step of releasing Strauss-Kahn on his own recognizance, but the charges have not been dismissed.

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Strauss-Kahn was held without bail for nearly a week after his May arrest. His lawyers ultimately persuaded a judge to release him by agreeing to extensive -- and expensive -- conditions, including an ankle monitor, surveillance cameras and armed guards. He can leave for only for court, weekly religious services and visits to doctors and his lawyers, and prosecutors must be notified at least six hours before he goes anywhere.

The security measures were estimated to cost him about $200,000 a month, on top of the $50,000-a-month rent on a town house in trendy TriBeCa. He settled there after a hasty and fraught house hunt: A plan to rent an apartment in a tony building on Manhattan's Upper East Side fell through after residents complained about the hubbub created by reporters, police and gawkers.

Under New York law, judges base bail decisions on factors including defendants' characters, financial resources and criminal records, as well as the strength of the case against them -- all intended to help gauge how likely they are to flee if released.

Defendants and prosecutors can raise the issue of bail at any point in a case. It's common, if asking a judge to revisit a bail decision, to argue that new information or new proposed conditions change how one or more of the factors should be viewed.

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