NEW YORK — The hotel maid accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sex assault has been wrongfully portrayed as a money-grubbing opportunist in accounts of her recorded remarks to an incarcerated friend, her lawyer said Wednesday after they reviewed the tapes during a nearly eight-hour meeting with prosecutors.
The tapes also established that housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo recounted the attack to the man during their first conversation, a day after the alleged attack – showing, her lawyer said, that her focus was on what had happened to her, not on the former International Monetary Fund leader’s wealth or stature.
“Information has been put out there about Ms. Diallo that now I know was false. She never was scheming to take DSK’s money, and that’s a fact,” said her attorney, Kenneth Thompson, referring to Strauss-Kahn by his initials. Diallo herself didn’t speak to reporters, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the meeting.
The marathon session marked the 32-year-old’s first meeting with prosecutors since they said July 1 they had doubts about her credibility because she hadn’t been truthful about her background or what she did right after the May 14 encounter. Strauss-Kahn denies the charges, and his lawyers are calling for the case to be dismissed.
Diallo’s sit-down with prosecutors came days after she went public in interviews with Newsweek and ABC News, pressing for prosecutors to keep pursuing the case. Prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys said Tuesday they had agreed to postpone his next court date from Aug. 1 to Aug. 23, when prosecutors could announce whether they will go forward with the case.
Strauss-Kahn, who had been considered a promising French presidential contender, was arrested after Diallo (whose name is pronounced na-fee-SAH’-too dee-AH’-loh) said he forced her to perform oral sex, manhandled her and ripped down her stockings in his luxury suite at the Sofitel Hotel near Manhattan’s Times Square. Traces of Strauss-Kahn’s semen were found on her work uniform. He has been charged with attempted rape and other crimes.
Prosecutors have said the case has been weakened by Diallo’s fabrications, including a compelling story she told them of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea. The widowed immigrant, who has a 15-year-old daughter, says she had embellished her life story to gain asylum in the U.S., and what prosecutors call inconsistencies in her account of her actions right after the alleged attack were the result of a misunderstanding.
Thompson said he, Diallo, prosecutors and an interpreter spent hours Wednesday on another question that has arisen about her associations and conduct: her recorded conversations with a friend who is being held in an Arizona immigration detention center after pleading guilty in a marijuana case. The two spoke on the recording in Fulani, a West African language.
The tapes have not been released, and Thompson said he was allowed to hear them Wednesday but didn’t get copies of them. They contrast with a New York Times account of what Diallo had said, according to Thompson. The newspaper has reported, citing an anonymous law enforcement official, that Diallo said “words to the effect of, `Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing'” to her friend shortly after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest.
But on the tapes, her mentions of Strauss-Kahn’s resources and her knowing what to do are made at different points, and in contexts that cast them in a considerably different light, Thompson said.
In her first conversation with the man, she didn’t mention Strauss-Kahn’s wealth at all, instead telling her friend that “someone tried to rape me, and that he’s a powerful, big man,” who had tried to take her clothes off, pushed her, and ultimately made her do something against her will, Thompson said.
In a subsequent conversation, she told her friend that her attacker “is powerful and rich,” her lawyer said. But it was earlier in that conversation – and not in connection with any mention of Strauss-Kahn’s status – that she said “I know what to do” to signal that she gone to authorities, planned to hire a lawyer and would be all right, Thompson said.
“Her primary focus was on what happened to her, how she was coping with the fact that she had almost been raped,” he said.
The Associated Press has previously reported that Diallo alluded to Strauss-Kahn’s wealth in a recorded conversation days after the ex-IMF leader’s arrest, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not made public in court.
While Thompson said Diallo wasn’t focused on Strauss-Kahn’s money, he said it would be her right to sue him over the encounter.
“There is nothing wrong with a woman who’s almost been raped filing a lawsuit to stand up for her dignity as a woman,” the lawyer said.
Prosecutors and Diallo have had a tense relationship in recent weeks. Her last meeting with prosecutors, in late June, ended with her in tears as prosecutors asked about her past and life, Thompson has said. This month, he called on the district attorney’s office to recuse itself and arrange for a special prosecutor.
But the rift appeared to close a bit Wednesday, at least on Diallo’s end, with Thompson calling prosecutors “gracious” for accommodating his request to hear the recording. He said he didn’t anticipate further meetings this week.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly, as Diallo has done.
Diallo plans to join religious, women’s and African community groups Thursday at a Brooklyn Christian center to thank New Yorkers who support her.