The prosecutor who charged Dominique Strauss-Kahn with sexually assaulting a hotel maid said Wednesday he dropped the case because he ultimately wasn't sure what transpired between the two.
"I determined that I was no longer convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I knew what happened — not that something didn't happen, but whether we, as an office, knew beyond a reasonable doubt what happened," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said at a law firm forum. ".... We did not have that quantum of confidence."
Vance dropped the sensational case against the former leader of the International Monetary Fund in August. Prosecutors noted then in court papers that the decision reflected doubts about the woman's overall credibility, not "factual findings" about what had occurred in Strauss-Kahn's hotel suite in May.
Vance's comments Wednesday were one of the few times he has publicly answered questions about the case. His planned news conference shortly after the case's dismissal was abruptly nixed when an earthquake rattled Manhattan and the DA's office was evacuated just as he started speaking.
Strauss-Kahn was the head of the IMF and a likely French presidential candidate when hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo told authorities he had forced her to perform oral sex and tried to rape her in his Manhattan hotel suite in May. Strauss-Kahn was pulled off a Paris-bound plane, arrested and jailed for several days before being released to house arrest. He resigned from the IMF within days.
Strauss-Kahn, who is married, acknowledges an inappropriate sexual encounter but insists there was no violence.
He was freed without bail about six weeks later, when prosecutors first revealed that they were losing faith in Diallo's trustworthiness. They said she hadn't been truthful with them about her background and what she did right after the encounter. The DA's office investigated for several more weeks before asking a judge to dismiss the case.
"As a prosecutor, you have to follow facts as you have them, when you have them. When those facts change, you have to, as a responsible prosecutor, deal with" the changed outlook, Vance told the audience Wednesday at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP.
One of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, Benjamin Brafman, said Wednesday that "what is important is that, ultimately, Cy Vance had the guts and integrity to dismiss the DSK case, a prosecution doomed to fail."
Diallo is adamant that she told the truth about her encounter with Strauss-Kahn.
One of her attorneys, Kenneth Thompson, has said Vance's decision not to go forward with the case "denied an innocent woman a day in court." She's pressing her claims in a lawsuit.
The Associated Press doesn't generally identify accusers in sexual assault cases unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Diallo has done.
Vance said Wednesday that he wished New York law allowed more time for investigation and decision-making in the early stages of cases. Under state law, someone charged with a felony can be held up to 144 hours without an indictment or hearing, unless the defendant agrees to waive the deadline.
"We could benefit, I think, from slightly more extended timetables," Vance said.
In the wake of the Strauss-Kahn case, Vance said he'd continue to urge assistant prosecutors to move as quickly as possible to get relevant information about facts and witnesses' credibility.
But, he said, "there is no single thing that can change the complicated dynamic of determining who's telling the truth between two strangers."