A compilation of Sofitel Hotel surveillance videos found their way to French television station BFMTV, showing Dominique Strauss-Kahn checking out of the hotel on May 14 as well as his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, apparently reporting his alleged sexual assault to hotel managers. The video also shows two of those managers in their now-infamous "victory dance" first mentioned in Edward Jay Epstein's in-depth investigation published in the New York Review of Books. Both Strauss-Kahn and Diallo's side can find something to celebrate in the release of the footage, but so far, Diallo's people are the ones claiming victory. The real question, of who released the footage, remains unanswered.
The footage first shows Strauss-Kahn leaving an elevator, checking out, and then hailing a cab casually and unhurridly. His manner doesn't suggest one running from the scene of a recently committed crime. The video then shows a much more animated Diallo, who appears to act out an attack, grabbing her breast and raising her hands as if to push someone away. Finally, the video cuts to the victory dance between Adrian Branch and John Sheehan, security executives at the hotel, who Epstein's story implies were celebrating some kind of frame-up. Epstein originally reported that the dance lasted three minutes, but the New York Review of Books updated its story, reporting that the dance lasted "about 13 seconds." That's what the video shows, too. Accor, which owns the Sofitel group of hotels, previously denied the men were celebrating a conspiracy: "both employees categorically deny this exchange had anything to do with Mr. Strauss-Kahn," a Nov. 28 statement reads.
"I do not believe Sofitel changed or altered these tapes, but I never saw their copy," Epstein said via email on Thursday. He didn't say whose copy he did see. Last week, a lawyer for Nafissatou Diallo carefully avoided confirming or denying to us whether he had shown a group of French reporters some other Sofitel surveillance footage of Strauss-Kahn entering the hotel with a "mystery blonde" the night of May 13. A report on Radio France International originally stated Wigdor had shown the reporters that footage, but it was later changed.
Wigdor and his partner Kenneth Thompson said in a statement Thursday that the "surveillance tape is further proof that Ms. Diallo is telling the truth about the brutal sexual attack," according to the Associated Press. But they didn't address the question of how the footage came to light. Strauss-Kahn's own lawyers haven't spoken about the footage.
The rumor among French journalists is that the Accor company leaked the footage in Paris, a source tells us, but Accor has denied that in a statement of its own: "Accor is rightly concerned by the consequences that this unauthorized release of these tapes by someone to the media may have on hotel staff, guests and their families. It is Accor’s policy to be fair and neutral at all times." The hotel also reiterated its previous point, that the "victory dance" didn't prove it was involved in any kind of conspiracy, as Epstein's article had said. The notion that the video released today establishes evidence of Accor’s involvement in a conspiracy is nonsense," wrote Lanny J. Davis, an attorney for Accor in America.
Finally, here's the footage:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.