Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man who might well have become president of France, is suing the woman whose allegations of sexual assault cost him his reputation as a global financier and his roles as diplomat and political figure.
In a suit filed in New York, Strauss-Kahn, 63, is suing Guinean-born Nafissatou Diallo for $1 million plus punitive damages for what the erstwhile French power-broker alleges was the hotel maid’s “malicious and wanton false accusation” that he assaulted her when she came to clean his MidtownManhattan hotel suite in May 2011.
Diallo, 33, complained to police and Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged. But the case was dropped by the Manhattan district attorney’s office after prosecutors said they questioned Diallo’s credibility.
Diallo then filed a civil suit against Strass-Kahn, who claimed he was protected from such legal action because he had diplomatic immunity as head of the International Monetary Fund at the time. A New York judge recently threw out that argument and ruled that Diallo’s suit could go forward.
Strauss-Kahn has replied with a countersuit, filed on Monday, the one-year anniversary of the hotel encounter. It came a day before Tuesday’s swearing-in of Francois Hollande as the president of France. Hollande ran at the top of the Socialist ticket, a spot that most observers agreed would have gone to Strauss-Kahn before the arrest in New York.
In the countersuit, Strauss-Kahn denies all wrongdoing and accuses Diallo of “knowingly and intentionally making a false report to law enforcement authorities.” Whatever happened on that day was consensual, he argued, and denied there was any violence.
Diallo argued in her suit that Strauss-Kahn chased her down and forced her to perform oral sex. Her lawyers, Kenneth W. Thompson and Douglas H. Wigdor, called the countersuit a “desperate ploy.”
Countersuits filed by a party facing battle in a civil suit are a longtime legal tradition. On the commercial level, they’re the equivalent of setting up a shield that the courts are forced to notice. A recent example was Facebook’s countersuit last month against Yahoo, weeks after that company had sued it for patent infringement.
But countersuits are also common in any case in which someone — often a celebrity with something to lose, whether money or reputation — is sued. For example, reality-TV celebrity Kris Jenner recently filed a countersuit against a cosmetics company that dropped her as an endorser after she had face-lift surgery.
Strauss-Kahn certainly spent money during the weeks he was under effective house arrest in New York. But it is doubtful that he wants to recover the money from the hotel maid, who reportedly has little of her own. Rather, the suit, from his point of view, could help resurrect his reputation in France, where the citizenry seems to accept top officials’ extramarital activities, provided they are consensual.
French investigators are still studying accusations that Strauss-Kahn may have been involved in a prostitution ring that hosted parties in several cities.
The New York countersuit was first reported by the New York Post.
By Michael Muskal