Dominique Strauss-Kahn freed from house arrest

Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves a Manhattan courthouse July 1, 2011, in New York.
AP Photo

NEW YORK - Questions from prosecutors about the credibility of the hotel housekeeper who accused former IMF leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault led to him walking out of court without bail and free from house arrest Friday.

The stark turn in the case came after the woman admitted to prosecutors she had made up a story of being gang raped and beaten in her homeland to enhance her application for political asylum, prosecutors said in a letter to defense lawyers.

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She also misrepresented what she did after the alleged attack — instead of fleeing to a hallway and waiting for a supervisor, she went to clean another room and then returned to clean Strauss-Kahn's suite before telling her supervisor that she had been attacked, prosecutors said.

She also misrepresented her income and claimed someone else's child as her own dependent on tax returns, they said.

At Friday's hearing, the prosecutor said the district attorney's investigation has "caused us to reassess our position on the strength of the case," CBS News investigative producer Pat Milton reports.

The details speak to the maid's credibility and whether her story would stand up under oath in a prosecution that would rely heavily on her testimony.

Strauss-Kahn had been confined for weeks to a ritzy Manhattan loft on $6 million in cash and bond. The charges, which include attempted rape, have not been reduced, but the changes signal that prosecutors do not believe the accusations are as ironclad as they once seemed.

The developments 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, CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano reports.

The 32-year-old hotel maid accused Strauss-Kahn of chasing her through his luxury suite in May, trying to pull down her pantyhose and forcing her to perform oral sex. Authorities have said they have forensic evidence of a sexual encounter, but defense lawyers have said it wasn't forced.

"It is a great relief," said Strauss-Kahn's attorney, William Taylor. "It is so important in this country that people, especially the media, refrain from judgment until the facts are all in."

A smiling Strauss-Kahn, wearing a dark suit and light blue tie, shook the hand of his attorneys as he left the courtroom with his wife, French journalist Anne Sinclair, Milton reports.

During the hearing, Strauss-Kahn stood quietly, hands folded in front of him and flanked by his two high profile attorneys, Benjamin Brafman and Taylor, as State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus told him his bail was being revoked and that he would be released in his own custody pending his next court appearance July 18, Milton reports.

"The case is not over as you have heard," Obus said during the nearly seven-minute-long hearing.

The prosecutor said the district attorney's office wasn't dismissing the case against Strauss-Kahn at this time, Milton reports. His passport and other travel documents were not returned.

"Prosecutors wouldn't have agreed to allow Strauss-Kahn out of house arrest if they still felt they had a strong rape case against him," CBS Radio News legal analyst Andrew Cohen reports. "On the other hand, it's telling that they haven't yet released his travel documents, which means they still want him in the states and under the jurisdiction of American courts."

After his arrest, Strauss-Kahn resigned from his post leading the International Monetary Fund and watched his presidential ambitions seemingly crumble.

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The woman's attorney, Ken Thompson, fired back outside court, saying the district attorney's office was backing away from the case because it was too scared to prosecute it. He said she would come out in public to tell her story but didn't specify when.

Thompson said the woman went to the district attorney with information that her asylum application was flawed, but that she exaggerated on it because she was scared she would be sent back to Guinea. He said she came to the U.S. because she was a victim of female genital mutilation, and she worried her daughter, now 15, would be victimized as well. He also said she had been raped by soldiers there, but that attack did not occur as it was written in her asylum application.

Thompson did not back down on the seriousness of the charges, delivering intimate and specific details from her perspective on a violent attack, saying Strauss-Kahn bruised her vagina, tore a ligament in her shoulder and ripped her stockings.

"When she was fighting to get away, when she was on her knees and he was sexually assaulting her, after he finished, she got up and started to run to the door and started spitting Dominique Strauss-Kahn's semen out of her mouth in disgust all over that hotel room," he said.

Investigators have said they found traces of his semen on her uniform.