The lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn accuser Nafissatou Diallo have said little to the U.S. press since his biography suggested the encounter between him and Diallo was consensual, but they're claiming they've learned of a key witness who they say visited Strauss-Kahn's hotel room -- if they could only find her.
Footage from the Sofitel Hotel's security cameras reportedly shows a mysterious blonde woman going to Strauss-Kahn's room with him the night before he engaged in oral sex with Nafissatou Diallo -- an encounter she says was sexual assault. New York prosecutors threw out a criminal case against Strauss-Kahn in August, but Diallo has filed a civil suit against him in the Bronx.
One of Diallo's lawyers reportedly played French reporters visiting his office Sofitel Hotel surveillance footage that shows Strauss-Kahn heading to his room the night of May 13 (the day before the alleged assault on Diallo) with a blonde woman who left at 4 a.m. The "mysterious blonde" is big news in France.
If they can find the "mysterious blonde," Diallo's legal team of Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor think they can secure a witness who will explain details of the affair with Diallo, including whether Strauss-Kahn coerced her to do anything, and why the encounter took place in the hallway of the suite numbered 2806.
The hurried nature of the sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and housekeeper Diallo has long been a central question in the case, and Strauss-Kahn's explanation in his biography that she invited him for felatio with a gaze as he emerged from the shower has left many unconvinced. Another question about the encounter is why it happened in the hallway of the suite, instead of the bedroom. Diallo has alleged Strauss-Kahn chased her through the suite and finally caught her in the corridor. But Wigdor said that the new biography gives a different explanation.
"I’m told that in this latest book by Taumbann he says the reason the sexual acts occurred in the hallway instead of the bedroom was because there was a window in the bedroom and people could see him, even though he was on the 28th floor," he said. "And so it would be interesting to know whether this woman he was with at the hotel – whether they had sexual relations in the bedroom.”
But some in the French media don't buy the notion that the reporters were only played the footage in order to help identify the woman. On Thursday, Radio France International reporter Karim Lebhour wrote in a French-language piece (that we ran through Google Translate):
French correspondents were shown a video of the Sofitel on which we see DSK back to his hotel the night of May 13 to 14, accompanied by anunidentified blond woman. This video is of particular interest Naffissatou Diallo's lawyers seeking to know the identity of this woman, to question him in connection with civil proceedings commenced before the court in the Bronx.
Wigdor wouldn't confirm whether he had shown the footage to the French reporters. [Update: After this story was published, Lebhour, who originally reported that Wigdor had shown the surveillance video to French correspondents in New York, updated his story to remove Wigdor's involvement.] Wigdor told The Atlantic Wire any suggestion he was looking for a settlement was "completely false." He said the reason he would show the video would be to identify the mystery woman, and not necessarily to paint Strauss-Kahn as a predator. Strauss-Kahn "may very well be a sexual predator ... I believe that to be the case. That’s my opinion. But the video itself, to the extent that it’s ever been shown to anyone, would only be shown to people to try to identify who she [the blonde] is," he said. The attorneys want her as a witness in the case, "so we could speak to her and see whether she was coerced to do anything she didn’t want to do," Wigdor said.
Why show the video to reporters from France, then, if the woman was spotted in the lobby of a New York City hotel? Wigdor said he and Thompson had reason to believe the woman was from France or Belgium. "And reporters know a lot of people."
But Lebhour had a different idea. He suggested via telephone that Diallo's legal team had spotted a disturbing trend of conspiracy theories -- such as that suggested by Strauss-Kahn's biography and a report a few days earlier from investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein -- that made Strauss-Kahn look like a victim. "So far, the conspiracy theories are coming from France, and Epstein was the first one to offer that in the U.S.," Lebhour said. "My guess is that they’re worried that the conspiracy theory is going to spread into the U.S. media, and they want to counter that."