Strauss-Kahn's Accuser Could Face Dire Consequences

If the prosecution's case falls apart, the Sofitel housekeeper may find herself in serious trouble

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When the Manhattan District Attorney's Office announced last week that its star witness--the alleged victim--in the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn had lied on myriad different points concerning her background and the events of May 14 in the Sofitel hotel, the spotlight focused on Strauss-Kahn. The former director of the International Monetary Fund would be freed from house arrest, have his bail refunded, and his lawyers expected the charges against him would be dropped. But it was a watershed day for his accuser too, though far less joyous. Now some news reports are beginning to focus on the possible consequences for the Sofitel housekeeper who claimed Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her, should the prosecution's case fall apart. Let's take a look at some of them.

  • She could be charged with perjury. The housekeeper reportedly lied under oath when she testified to the grand jury that indicted Strauss-Kahn. In a letter to the defense, the district attorney's office said she told jurors that after the alleged assault, she "fled to an area of the main hallway" on the 28th floor and waited until Strauss-Kahn left before reporting it. But in their letter, prosecutors said the housekeeper "admitted that this account was false," and told them she cleaned another room after visiting Strauss-Kahn's. So far, no news reports have uncovered a perjury charge against the housekeeper, and no city officials have said such a move was in the works. But as the Telegraph's Jon Swaine points out, she did testify "under penalty of perjury," which is a felony punishable by seven years in prison.
  • She could be deported. It sounds dramatic, but an immigration lawyer told The New York Times' Clyde Haberman that deportation was a very real possibility, "though for now it is firmly planted in the realm of the theoretical." The prosecution's letter to the defense last Friday also said the accuser had admitted to lying in order to gain political asylum in the United States when she immigrated from Guinea. In his City Room blog post, Haberman recalled the fate of another Guinean immigrant, Amadou Diallo, who was infamously killed by police in 1999. He, too, turned out to have lied on his asylum application, though that had nothing to do with his controversial death. "Still, immigration lawyers said at the time, whenever an asylum seeker in a high-profile situation is found to have lied, it can jeopardize the prospects of those with genuine claims of having escaped oppression. There is a similar risk now."
  • She could lose a lot of money. The details of the housekeeper's contract with defense attorneys Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor aren't public, and they very could be working pro bono. But that seems unlikely, given that it's not exactly standard for the accuser in a criminal case to hire a lawyer in addition to the public prosecutors. A New York Times story last week said she had $100,000 in the bank, but on the outside, all we know is that she's a workaday housekeeper raising a daughter in New York. Even if she had that kind of money, several months' worth of attorney's fees would put a dent in it. The obvious way to regain the cost is to sue successfully someone in connection to the case. She's already sued the New York Post for reporting that she was a prostitute, and she may get money from that, but libel cases are notoriously hard to prove. Meanwhile, if the prosecution drops the charges against Strauss-Kahn or if he's found not guilty, a lawsuit against him or the Sofitel would have a long shot at success.
  • She could get in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. The district attorney's office says the accuser lied on her tax returns for the past two years, claiming her friend's child as a dependent in addition to her own. The Christian Science Monitor got ahold of a former IRS lawyer who said it was unlikely the service would pursue a criminal case against her. "They would simply assess against her the tax she should have paid, then add interest and penalties,” Cal Bomar told the paper. “They would not seek to prosecute.” Still, she could be on the hook for back taxes, and there's that $100,000 she reportedly has stashed away. "They might do an audit,” Bomar said. “It’s possible it could be tax evasion, especially if it’s linked to a boyfriend or husband or criminal enterprise.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.