DSK escapes prosecution in Paris rape case

PARIS - The Paris prosecutor's office on Thursday dropped an investigation into a writer's claim that Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her, citing lack of sufficient proof, though it said the former IMF chief admitted to a lesser charge of sexual assault.

Strauss-Kahn admitted during questioning to sexual assault against French writer Tristane Banon during a 2003 interview for a book she was writing, the prosecutor revealed. But the Paris prosecutor's office said it could not pursue a sexual assault case against Strauss-Kahn, because the incident occurred too long ago. The statute of limitations on that charge is three years; on attempted rape it's 10 years.

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Thursday's announcement was a second legal victory in a stormy year for Strauss-Kahn, who quit his job as head of the International Monetary Fund after a New York hotel maid accused him of attempted rape earlier this year. Prosecutors later dropped that case.

Banon filed her complaint in France in July, after doubts about the maid's credibility emerged.

Strauss-Kahn, considered a top contender for France's presidency before his New York arrest, called Banon's attempted rape claim imaginary and slanderous.

Banon has said that Strauss-Kahn invited her to an empty apartment for the book interview, and they ended up tussling on the floor, with the politician trying to open her jeans and bra and putting his fingers in her mouth and underwear.

"For lack of sufficient elements of evidence, prosecution cannot be undertaken on the charge of attempted rape," the prosecutor's office said. However, it said, "facts that could be qualified as sexual assault have been acknowledged."

Strauss-Kahn admitted during questioning that he tried to kiss Banon without her consent, a judicial official told the Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the questioning is private.

Banon has defended her decision not to file charges against Strauss-Kahn at the time of the alleged incident. In 2003, she was 23 years old and Strauss-Kahn was an eminence grise of France's Socialist party, and her own mother advised her against filing a complaint.

The New York maid, Nafissatou Diallo, has filed a civil suit. Banon has said she would do likewise if Paris prosecutors decided not to go forward with a criminal case.

The Associated Press does not generally name accusers in sexual assault cases unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Banon and Diallo have done.