Who's Mad at Whom in the DSK Case

In an unusually contentious criminal case, a guide to tension between lawyers

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Kenneth Thompson, the former federal prosecutor representing the Sofitel hotel maid who says Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her, reportedly "crashed" a meeting yesterday between prosecutors and the attorney representing Tristane Banon, the French journalist who has accused Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape in France. His uninvited arrival didn't disrupt the meeting, according to DNAinfo. "The pair spent close to three hours in the meeting with the District Attorney's office, but Thompson was only allowed to participate in part of the discussions, sources said." The two lawyers then walked to the subway together, and the Guardian suggested they may be joining forces against Strauss-Kahn.

But while yesterday's meeting went civilly enough, the prosecution's antagonistic handling of Thompson underscores the rising tensions between all parties in the increasingly contentious criminal case. It can be difficult, when lawyers speak, to decipher what is rhetoric and what is actual feeling, but the players in this case have shown an abundance of the latter. Let's take a look at who has expressed frustration over whom.

Kenneth Thompson: The lawyer who took over Strauss-Kahn's accuser's case for civil attorney Harry Shapiro lashed out most vehemently and memorably against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and the prosecutors charging the case. In his comments following the July 1 hearing in which Strauss-Kahn's bail was lifted after prosecutors called  attention to the accuser's dishonesty about her past, Thompson called the prosecution's revelation "a lie." He said Vance was sabotaging his own case "because he is afraid he will lose, like he lost the case against the two police officers accused of rape, like he lost the case against the Deutsche Bank employees in the fire near Ground Zero." He accused prosecutors of mistreating his client and her daughter, screaming and yelling during an interview. A few days later, Thompson called on Vance to remove his office from the case and appoint a special prosecutor, charging that Vance's chief assistant, Daniel Alonso, had planted "damaging leaks" in the press.

Thompson's relationship with his own client is also reportedly deteriorating, DNAinfo reported, "after he tried to prevent her from speaking publicly, including preventing her from speaking to prosecutors for 19 days after the initial meeting with prosecutors following the attack."

Cy Vance and his assistant district attorneys: Vance hasn't said much publicly that wasn't carefully scripted. But his office has made clear through off-the-record conversations with reporters that it doesn't think much of Kenneth Thompson's tactics. The charge that he kept his client from meeting with prosecutors, first noted in a Bloomberg Businessweek article and repeated in today's DNAinfo story, has rankled some in the office. Then there was Thompson's call for Vance to step down from the case and appoint a special prosecutor to take over. That didn't go over well in the district attorney's office, sources there said, in particular because the office learned of the demand through a news story before it received Thompson's letter. Vance, of course, has not stepped down from the case.

Prosecutors also had annoyed-sounding words for Brafman and his team when co-counsel William Taylor slyly suggested they had evidence to undermine the accuser's credibility. "We were troubled that you chose to inject into the public record your claim that you posses information that might negatively impact the case and 'gravely' undermine the credibility of the victim," Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon wrote in her formal response.

Ben Brafman and William Taylor: Strauss-Kahn's defense has shown the least amount of public frustration with the other parties in the case, but it's been clear from some of its filings, most notably the May 25 letter referenced above, that the lawyers have been annoyed with the information that consistently appears in the press. Brafman and Taylor's letter included this paragraph:

As you will note, we have refrained from commenting on any substantive issue in this case, despite the fact that the police department has intentionally violated its duty. Indeed, were we intent on improperly feeding the media frenzy, we could now release substantial information that in our view would seriously undermine the quality of the prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in this case.

The defense team also weathered a fairly personal attack when the New York Post alleged Strauss-Kahn's representatives had tried to pay off his accuser's family in Guinea. The terse denial they issued in response didn't sound too friendly.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.