Dominique Strauss-Kahn case crumbling?
NEW YORK - Prosecutors have serious questions about the credibility of a hotel housekeeper who has accused former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, and they are taking the extraordinary step of seeking a substantial reduction in his pricey bail, a person familiar with the case said Thursday.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public in court, told The Associated Press that prosecutors have raised issues about the accuser's credibility in the case against Strauss-Kahn, but would not elaborate.
A law enforcement official who is familiar with the case, but who also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason, told the AP that prosecutors came to believe during their investigation that the woman had lied about her activities in the hours surrounding the alleged attack and about her own background.The new developments could represent a stunning reversal of fortune for the man whose financial and political career all but disintegrated when he was arrested just six weeks ago, reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.
The New York Police Department, which investigated the case, declined to comment. The woman's lawyer did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Strauss-Kahn, who faces a court hearing Friday, has been under armed guard in a Manhattan townhouse after posting a total of $6 million in cash bail and bond. He denies the allegations.
Sources close to the defense tell CBS News they expect Strauss-Kahn's bail restrictions will be either substantially reduced or lifted on Friday, indicating he may even be released on his own recognizance. The sources made it clear they do not expect the charges against Strauss-Kahn to be dropped Friday, as it is just a bail hearing.
"There will be serious issues raised by the district attorney's office and us concerning the credibility of the complaining witness," Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, told the Wall Street Journal.
IMF Director accused of sex assault in NYC
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.
The New York Times first reported on its website that investigators uncovered major inconsistencies in the woman's account of her background, citing two law enforcement officials. The Times also reported that senior prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn's lawyers are discussing whether to dismiss the felony charges against him, including attempted rape.
Strauss-Kahn lawyer William W. Taylor would say only that the hearing was to review the bail plan. The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment.
Prosecutors had argued against his release in May, citing the violent nature of the alleged offenses and saying his wealth and international connections would make it easy for him to flee.
"The proof against him is substantial. It is continuing to grow every day as the investigation continues," Assistant District Attorney John "Artie" McConnell told the judge. "We have a man who, by his own conduct in this case, has shown a propensity for impulsive criminal conduct."
But according to the law enforcement official who spoke to the AP, prosecutors now believe Strauss-Kahn's accuser lied about various details on her application for asylum in the U.S., including saying she had been raped in her native Guinea a claim she repeated and then recanted during the investigation, the official said.
"She actually recounted the entire story to prosecutors and later said it was false," the official said.
Prosecutors also believe some of her account of her activities in the hours surrounding the alleged attack wasn't true, though they haven't necessarily reached a new conclusion about the incident itself, the official said. They have not decided whether to downgrade the charges, the official said.Quijano reports that investigators also reportedly have evidence that could link the unidentified Guinean woman to drug dealing and money laundering. In one recorded phone call - placed the day after the encounter - she spoke to a man in prison about "the possible benefits of pursuing the charging against" Strauss-Kahn, according to the Times' report.
In early hearings, prosecutors underscored that they thought the evidence against Strauss-Kahn was formidable. And it appeared so at first, the official said.
"In the beginning, it was a strong case. There was a victim and several witnesses and forensic evidence that supported the victim's claim," the official said.
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. Prosecutors have also said in court that Strauss-Kahn seemed on surveillance tapes to be in a hurry as he left the hotel, though his lawyers have said he was merely rushing to lunch.
If the case against Strauss-Kahn collapses, it could once again shake up the race for the French presidency. Strauss-Kahn, a prominent Socialist, had been seen as a leading potential contender and challenger to conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy for next year's elections until the New York hotel incident embarrassed Strauss-Kahn's party and left him in the political wilderness.
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