On Monday, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers answered Nafissatou Diallo's civil suit against him by filing a motion to throw it out. The main thrust of their argument, that Strauss-Kahn held diplomatic immunity at the time Diallo accused him of trying to rape her, ignores any question about details of the encounter between them. Before New York prosecutors dropped the criminal case against Strauss-Kahn in August, the former International Monetary Fund director and one-time contender for the French Presidency made no public comments and his attorneys kept their press statements and legal filings brief. But by looking at some of the documents filed on Monday, along with some of Strauss-Kahn's statements since he returned to France earlier this month, we can get an idea of what he is prepared to make a point of denying and what he's probably going to ignore for the long term.
What Strauss-Kahn is Denying
- That he used force against Diallo: Strauss-Kahn has maintained that the sexual encounter between him and Diallo involved neither force nor violence. Last week, he told a French television interviewer explicitly that "what happened involved neither violence, force, aggression or any criminal act." Diallo's initial civil complaint includes graphic descriptions of an alleged violent encounter and the injuries it left. Strauss-Kahn's legal filings haven't addressed those charges but he has always publicly denied using force.
- That he paid Diallo: Strauss-Kahn also denied in his television interview that he had paid Diallo. On Monday, in a motion to strike from the public record sections of Diallo's complaint against him, his lawyers focused on her allegation, in her lawsuit, that his legal team "instigated" the report in the New York Post that claimed she was a prostitute. Diallo has sued the paper for that claim, so it seems both she and Strauss-Kahn agree she was not paid.
- Other sexual assaults and harassment: Several paragraphs of Diallo's initial complaint allege a widespread pattern of sexual assaults, and Strauss-Kahn has also asked for those to be stricken from the record. The complaint says Diallo's lawyers intend to introduce other women at trial who say Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted them, including coworkers at the International Monetary Fund, hotel workers, and others. Strauss-Kahn's motion to strike that claim from the record calls it "irrelevant and prejudicial." It says the same of the allegation Strauss-Kahn barked a sexually suggestive comment to an Air France flight attendant when he initially boarded a flight to Paris hours after the Sofitel encounter. In France, journalist Tristane Baston has accused Strauss-Kahn of raping her, but he has denied that charge as well, though he admits making a pass at her.
- That U.S. civil court holds jurisdiction over him: This is the main thrust of Strauss-Kahn's defense. His motion to have the suit dismissed states explicitly and repeatedly that Strauss-Kahn is immune to civil actions under the Specialized Agencies Convention, which holds that "the top official at each specialized agency is absolutely immune from civil process and suit, irrespective of whether the claims against the top official arise from his official duties," the motion claims.
What Strauss-Kahn is Not Denying
- That he had a sexual encounter with Diallo: Strauss-Kahn has never denied a sexual encounter between himself and Nafissatou Diallo. From the very beginning of the criminal case against him, his lawyers floated trial balloons suggesting they would argue consent against Diallo's claim Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her. There's DNA evidence proving a sexual encounter happened, so there was no point in claiming it didn't.
- That the encounter lasted an unusually short time: Strauss-Kahn's legal team has glossed over the demonstrated shortness of the Sofitel encounter in their claims of consent, but it hasn't gone unnoticed. Slate's Emily Yoffe wrote last week: "If there was no force, and no money, are we to believe it was his continental charm that caused Diallo to get on her knees and relieve a stranger?" The fact that the question has never been answered adequately is one of the things that keeps this case in people's imaginations.
- That the encounter was inappropriate: "It was worse than a weakness, it was a moral fault of which I am not proud," was how Strauss-Kahn described the affair in his interview. When he addressed the International Monetary Fund after leaving New York, he apologized and called the incident "a mistake on my part."