DSK: A Case Turned Upside Down

The accuser's statements no longer appear reliable. Was the former International Monetary Fund chief the victim of a rush to judgment?

Most of the compelling information about the suddenly-flailing sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn came from outside of the courtroom Friday. After the former International Monetary Fund chief was released from house arrest by Administrative Judge Michael Obus, the rest of the cast of characters all emerged into the light of day to put their respective spins on the dramatic turn in the latest case of the century.

From Kenneth Thompson, the lawyer for the alleged victim in the case, we learned that his client, unsurprisingly, is angry with prosecutors for their evident decision to back away from the rape case against Strauss-Kahn. Thompson made a point of telling reporters that "a grand jury has already found her account credible," which is true as far as it goes but which doesn't go nearly far enough to save the prosecution's case. In fact, it was a rather feckless thing to say at a time like this.

First, grand jurors deal with the lower "probable cause" standard of proof. Criminal trials deal with the higher "reasonable doubt" standard. Just because grand jurors may have believed the alleged victim doesn't guarantee that trial jurors will. The woman at the center of this was neither subjected to cross-examination before the grand jury (which isn't allowed) nor confronted with any other evidence against her. And it seems likely (although still a bit unclear to me) that investigators learned about the accuser's main credibility problems only after Strauss-Kahn was indicted. (Memo to the great Willie Rashbaum at The Times: Please look into that).

From Strauss-Kahn's attorneys, Benjamin Brafman and William Taylor, Jr., we learned that they realize that while their client may be out from under his confinement, he is not yet completely out of trouble. A written statement from Team Strauss-Kahn was notable mostly for what it did not say: 1) that the client was the victim of the sort of quick-judgment, lynch-mob mentality which almost always coalesces around these sorts of high-profile cases, and: 2) that the client's reputation and his career have been tarnished, perhaps permanently, all because the cops felt they couldn't let him leave the country without arresting him.

The defense is biting its tongue now because there's no need to inflame sensibilities at this particularly sensitive moment in the proceedings

Outside of court, Taylor did say this: "It is so important in this country that people, especially the media, refrain from judgment until the facts are all in....how easy it is for people to be charged with serious crimes and for there to be a rush to judgment." But that's a virtual mash note compared to what he and his client must feel about how things have evolved since the middle of May. The defense is biting its tongue now because there's no need to inflame sensibilities at this particularly sensitive moment in the proceedings.

To do so would be piling on prosecutors (who leaked so much information about Strauss-Kahn back in May) and bad form to the accuser (while rape charges still are pending). The defense team knows that there will be plenty of time for anti-media (or anti-accuser) screeds after prosecutors formally drop the charges against Strauss-Kahn and allow him to go back to his native France. That's why Taylor mostly proclaimed his client's joy at being free again to be out and about. Happy happy, joy joy, the man who might have been President of France one day now may return to McCormick and Schmick's on West 52nd Street for some fish and wine with his daughter.

Finally, from prosecutors we learned how exactly The New York Times was able to get its world exclusive Thursday night and why prosecutors are so reasonably worried that they won't be able to get a conviction if they take this case to trial. If you read nothing else today about the Strauss-Kahn case, read this. It is a letter the district attorney's office sent to defense lawyers Thursday outlining the problems investigators encountered with the alleged victim's statements. It is the single most important document yet revealed since this whole affair began six weeks ago. And it explains virtually everything that has happened over the past 24 hours. (Here's what I wrote on the case Friday morning, before the hearing and all these comments).

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Commentary Editor at The Marshall Project

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