A hotel maid who claims she was brutally sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn has settled her civil action against the former IMF chief for an undisclosed sum, a move that allows her to “move on with her life”, lawyers said.
In Bronx supreme court yesterday, a judge announced that an agreement had been reached just minutes before the session started, adding that the amount – which is rumoured to be as much as $6m – remained “confidential”.
It brings to an end a lengthy battle for the man once tipped to become French president, who earlier saw criminal charges of attempted rape dropped. Nonetheless, Strauss-Kahn’s legal woes are not completely behind him – he is yet to hear if prosecutors in France will be allowed to pursue charges of aggravated pimping related to an alleged prostitution ring in France. A court is due to rule in that case on 19 December.
The lawsuit settled in New York on Monday relates to claims by Nafissatou Diallo, a 33-year-old former housekeeper at the upmarket Sofitel hotel in Manhattan. She says the French politician attacked her on 14 May 2011 as she attempted to clean his room.
Diallo alleges that Strauss-Kahn ran at her naked, molested her, and forced her to perform oral sex on him. The claims led to a criminal investigation against the IMF boss last year and his house arrest in Manhattan. But charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, forcible touching and unlawful imprisonment were eventually dropped, with prosecutors citing “substantial credibility issues” with the alleged victim.
Despite the collapse of a criminal investigation, Diallo continued to pursue Strauss-Kahn through the civil courts, leading to a counter-defamation suit by the former IMF head.
At first, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers tried to claim that their client had diplomatic immunity and could therefore not be sued. But that tactic failed when the courts dismissed his claims of protection.
A settlement in the case was widely expected ahead of Monday’s hearing. Strauss-Kahn’s New York attorneys had previously acknowledged that talks had taken place. But they dismissed as “flatly false” a French newspaper’s report that the amount agreed was $6m.
In court yesterday, the judge, Douglas McKeon, confirmed that a deal had been struck, but not the amount. “Ten minutes ago we reached a settlement in this case, which was put on the record,” he said during a brief session. “The amount of the settlement is confidential.”
McKeon also confirmed that a claim against the New York Post – which had reported that Diallo had worked as a prostitute – had also been settled. Again the terms were not discussed in open court.
The former hotel employee sat through the court proceedings accompanied by her legal representatives. Dressed in a snow-leopard skin print headscarf and emerald blouse, she made no statement while in the courtroom.
But in brief comments on the steps of the Bronx supreme court, Diallo, a Guinean immigrant to the US and mother of a teenage girl, thanked her supporters. “I just want to say I thank everyone that supported me all over the world. I thank everybody, I thank God.”
Her attorney, Kenneth Thompson, added that Diallo was a “strong and courageous woman who never lost faith in our system of justice”. “With this resolution, she can now move on with her life,” he added.
Strauss-Kahn was not in court, and his legal representatives offered no comment other than to thank the court.
Monday’s hearing marks an apparent end to Strauss-Kahn’s New York legal battles. But it has come at a steep price for the 63-year-old. As well as costing him his job at the IMF, it ended any realistic chance he had at a run at the French presidency, as more lurid details of his libertine lifestyle emerged.
In addition, it led to a raft of other sexual allegations being made against Strauss-Kahn, and may well have contributed to his separation from his wife, the French journalist Ann Sinclair.
Over the last few months, DSK has slowly begun to reappear at official public functions in France, hoping, say friends, to soften his battered image. He has been seen strolling through the market in the town of Sarcelles, where he is mayor, and he has given a number of conferences abroad. He has also set up a consultancy business in Paris.