Strauss-Kahn prosecutor in spotlight as case nears collapse

New York district attorney forced to defend his tactics as critics say he was too hasty
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The Independent US

The New York district attorney who pushed through attempted rape charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is expected to drop the case after media reports cited the accuser as the wife of a drug dealer who planned to make money from her claims.

Cyrus Vance Jnr, who has been the city's chief prosecutor for 18 rocky months, insisted that the case had been handled properly "based on the facts we've known at every stage" – but, faced with the growing likelihood that the case against Mr Strauss-Kahn will collapse, Mr Vance is now widely expected to drop all charges.

Things turned on a dime last week when it was revealed that the hotel maid accusing Mr Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault had changed details of her story and had made up or embellished stories on her asylum application to the US.

A taped conversation with a prisoner, in which she discussed the financial benefits of pursuing charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn, further undermined the chance she could win over a jury. She is also accused of demanding money from Mr Strauss-Kahn.

And, while the former head of the International Monetary Fund was free to roam New York this weekend, international media cast fresh aspersions over the hotel maid who accuses him, dealing yet more damage to the credibility of the case.

French newspapers claimed that the accuser, a 32-year-old hotel maid from Guinea, had married the alleged dealer in New York last year, while reports in the New York Post said she had worked as a prostitute.

If charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn cannot be made to stick, it will be the latest in a string of defeats for the DA's office – and arguably the biggest failure of Mr Vance' tenure.

The son of Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter, the 57-year-old DA was elected in 2009 to modernise the prosecutor's office, but his centralisation of power has made him enemies and they rushed to brief that he had been too hasty in bringing charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn.

The French grandee was indicted within days of the alleged assault in May, and prosecutors pushed for tough bail conditions including house arrest and a $6m bail bond, arguing that the consistency of the maid's accusations, plus corroborating witnesses and DNA evidence, made their case strong. They feared he could flee to France, from where there is no extradition, if charges were not brought quickly.

Even Mr Vance's supporters questioned his handling of the case. Gerald Shargel, a fundraiser for his election campaign, told The New York Times: "What's most curious is hearing the prosecutors saying early on that they had a very strong case. Obviously, they hadn't looked very hard. I have enormous respect for Cy as a prosecutor, but this is like a series of bad dreams."

In recent weeks, the DA's office has failed to win convictions of two police officers accused of rape, and to persuade a grand jury to indict two defendants accused of planning terrorist attacks on New York synagogues.