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N.Y. maid speaking on alleged attack

Strauss-Kahn story makes TV, magazines

By Jennifer Peltz
Associated Press / July 26, 2011

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NEW YORK - She’s on a magazine cover and national television, telling her emotional and explicit story of being sexually attacked by Dominique Strauss-Kahn and pressing for him to be tried.

But while Nafissatou Diallo’s interviews marked a dramatic turn in the public narrative surrounding the case, they may have far less impact on prosecutors’ private investigation and deliberations about whether to keep pursuing her troubled case - a process that seems to be becoming more complex as it heads toward an Aug. 1 court date.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office yesterday declined to comment on Diallo’s statements and remained silent about its plans, as the hotel housekeeper’s interviews aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America’’ and appeared on newsstands in a Newsweek cover story.

ABC News broadcast more of its interview last night on “World News with Diane Sawyer,’’ and plans another segment tonight on “Nightline.’’

“I want justice. I want him to go to jail,’’ Diallo told ABC News.

The former International Monetary Fund leader denies the attempted rape and other charges. His lawyers decried Diallo’s interviews as “a desperate distraction’’ from what prosecutors have said was her history of lies about her background and inconsistencies about her actions right after the alleged attack.

Authorities have been guarding the privacy of the 32-year-old Guinean immigrant. Prosecutors have provided her with housing and paid her daily expenses to keep her from the media maelstrom.

Prosecutors generally advise against accusers and alleged victims speaking publicly before a trial. It is often seen as providing defense lawyers a lode of material to mine for inconsistencies and questions.

Diallo’s move could widen a rift between prosecutors and their key witness, who hasn’t spoken with them since late June, when her lawyer called for a special prosecutor after the district attorney’s office said it had developed doubts about her trustworthiness.

It’s a chancy strategic move for the maid and her lawyers, legal observers said.

“On the one hand, her lawyers felt they needed to up the ante because they feared the DA had lost his resolve,’’ said Bradley Simon, a Manhattan criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. “On the other hand, this has to make the DA’s office quite unhappy.’’

The interviews also could make the prospect of pursuing the case less attractive to prosecutors simply because defense lawyers could paint her as a publicity seeker, said Pace Law School professor and former Manhattan assistant prosecutor Bennett L. Gershman. Prosecutors could say, “she’s already trying it in the court of public opinion,’’ he said.

But however unhappy the DA’s office or however insistent Diallo is that the case should go forward, her now-public account is only one among many elements prosecutors are considering as they determine what to do.

Since they told a judge July 1 that she had a history of lying that had undermined the case, they have been reassessing evidence, analyzing the legal framework surrounding the case, and gathering new information.

In one example, prosecutors met last week with a lawyer for a French writer who has accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in 2003, an allegation Strauss-Kahn denies. While French authorities explore her complaint, Manhattan prosecutors also have asked about speaking with the writer herself, Tristane Banon, a person familiar with the case has said.

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