Strauss-Kahn freed after maid's credibility damaged

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The Independent Online

The sex assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared to be hanging by a thread last night after a New York judge freed him from house arrest when doubt was cast on the credibility of his alleged victim.

The dramatic shift in the legal drama also scrambled the political landscape in France, where Mr Strauss-Kahn, the former director of the International Monetary Fund, had been considered a likely and potent socialist challenger in next year's presidential election.

Mr Strauss-Kahn smiled in court as Justice Michael Obus, pictured, agreed to new bail arrangements allowing him to move freely in the city. Manhattan prosecutors acknowledged it had new information undermining the credibility of the hotel maid whose allegations led to his arrest on 14 May. The charges, including attempted rape, were not dropped, however, and his passport was not returned.

Benjamin Brafman, the lead defence laywer for Mr Strauss-Kahn, said the days events had been the "first step to what we believe will be full exoneration." Cyrus Vance Jr, the Manhattan District Attorney, admitted an ongoing investigation by his office had "raised concerns about the complaining witness's credibility".

A lawyer for the maid, an immigrant from Guinea in West Africa, made a vigorous statement in which he said that the sexual encounter that occurred in the Sofitel where Mr Strauss-Kahn had been staying had not been consensual. It appeared that prosecutors had uncovered grave inconsistencies in the 32-year-old maid's various statements, her allegations and even the circumstances under which she won asylum in the US.

She had lied to the grand jury saying that after the alleged assault in Mr Strauss-Kahn's suite she had waited for him to leave and then told managers. The truth is that she went on with her cleaning duties.

Reports of possible links between the maid and criminal elements in New York could make things worse for prosecutors. According to a New York Times report, a tape recording exists of her talking with a prison inmate facing charges of possessing marijuana. On the tape she allegedly muses about what money she might make from the scandal.

The jailed man the maid was recorded speaking to is among a variety of individuals who reportedly have deposited as much as $100,000 into bank accounts held by the alleged victim during the past two years.