Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Reasonable Doubt

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Last night, the New York Times dropped a bombshell: prosecutors in the DSK case said that their rape case against the former IMF chief was crumbling.  This morning, they met with the judge, where they agreed to release Strauss-Kahn from house arrest.  The Times sees this as "reflecting the likelihood that the serious charges against him will not be sustained".


The allegations against DSK's accuser are threefold:

1)  She's involved with someone who sis in jail pending trial for his possession of hundreds of pounds of marijuana, and there is a pattern of suspicious deposits to her bank accounts over the years, as well as several phones in her name that she claims to know nothing about.

2)  She lied on her asylum application, claiming that she was raped in her home country.  She now says that this was a false story that she told in order to remain in America.  She told prosecutors that she had included a story about being raped in her home country on her asylum application, but this turned out to be false, and she later apparently recanted the rape story; her account of being genitally mutilated did appear on her asylum application, but it differed from the story she told investigators.

3)  She was recorded talking to the abovementioned drug dealer the day after the alleged rape, discussing what benefit she might gain from pressing charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

This pattern of facts does not rule out the possibility that she was raped.  I seem to recall that she discussed what had happened long before she was recorded talking to the alleged drug dealer.  Of course, we don't know what was in that conversation, but unless she actually admitted that she was planning to lie, it's at best ambiguous.

But as Andrew Cohen points out on our site, while this doesn't establish that she's lying, it is almost certainly enough to establish reasonable doubt.  Forget whether she's involved with drug dealers--being a criminal does not establish blanket consent to sex with prominent hotel guests, so it's not really relevant. But the latter two are devastating.  They seem to indicate that she has lied before for personal gain, and that she considered the potential benefits of filing charges in this case.  I have to think that it would be nearly impossible to gain a conviction under those circumstances.  How could you be sure?

As Cohen notes, prosecutors do not raise questions in their own cases six weeks after they're filed unless they're really in huge trouble.  So it seems likely that the case will eventually be dropped.

There are two possibilities here, neither of them good:

1)  A woman with an unsavory past, who has done desperate things to get out of terrible economic conditions, was raped by a prominent figure, and he's going to get away with it because of her history.

2)  A serial cad had consensual sex with a chambermaid, and she attempted to destroy him with a false rape allegation for personal gain.  And because of the presumption that women don't lie about rape, she has succeeded in destroying him (and destabilizing the IMF at a very delicate moment), though not so much in the personal gain part.  To quote Ray Donovan, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?"

Neither is very comforting.  But that's all we have at this point.  An official contacted by the Times sums it up perfectly: "It is a mess, a mess on both sides".

Update:  I misunderstood ambiguously phrased commentary on the Times story to say that she'd lied about being raped on her asylum application; what she did was tell investigators that she'd included a story about being raped in her asylum application, which she hadn't; she later seems to have recanted the rape story entirely.  She also told a story about genital mutilation that differed substantially from the story on her asylum application, raising the possibility that she has lied on the record before for personal gain.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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