NEW YORK — The Manhattan maid accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape spoke of her anguish Thursday and her lawyer warned the French politician of a civil suit even if he escapes criminal trial.
Nafissatou Diallo, who accuses the powerful French politician and former International Monetary Fund chief of forcing her into oral sex in his luxury hotel room, appeared before a packed press conference at a New York church.
“We cry every day. We can’t sleep,” Diallo, an immigrant from the African country of Guinea, said, referring to herself and her 15-year-old daughter.
In a hesitant voice and nervously clasping her hands, Diallo said it was “too much for me, too much for my daughter.”
The emotional press conference marked a new level in the publicity drive by Diallo, who came out of hiding on Sunday for the first time since the alleged May 14 crime.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office initially pursued charges against Strauss-Kahn aggressively, but later expressed doubts about the maid’s credibility, leading to speculation that the sensational case may collapse.
Strauss-Kahn has pleaded not guilty to all charges and his lawyers accuse Diallo of merely pursuing financial gain.
Diallo’s lawyer Kenneth Thompson said the DA’s office is obliged to prosecute Strauss-Kahn but that a civil suit seeking damages would be filed even if criminal charges were dropped.
“What she wants is justice and if the prosecutors are not going to bring this case to trial then we have to look for justice and what I look forward to is putting this case before a jury,” Thompson told the press conference.
Asked when a civil suit could be filed, he said “soon.”
Thompson, who met for several hours Wednesday with prosecutors and Diallo, said he was still unsure whether the DA’s office would abandon the case.
However, Thompson said that one of the prosecutors’ main concerns — a taped phone conversation where Diallo supposedly discussed going after Strauss-Kahn’s wealth — had now been proved to result from a mistranslation.
Thompson said reports that Diallo had effectively told her friend, an incarcerated fellow Guinean, that she was scheming to obtain money were “not true.”
He said that a DA-approved interpreter of Diallo’s native Fulani language cleared up the translation at the meeting on Wednesday.
The DA’s office has yet to comment on the development which, if confirmed, would substantially repair the maid’s damaged credibility.
The press conference was highly unusual for a complainant in a sex crime case, but supporters explained the move as a desperate bid to restore Diallo’s honor and give her a chance to tell her side of the story.
Diallo referred to a New York tabloid report claiming that she was a prostitute and said: “A lot of people calling me a lot of bad names. I hear a lot of things, a lot of bad things.”
“I say ‘God why me, why me?'” she said.
She said her daughter had begged her: “‘Please, mom, promise me you stop crying. People call you bad names. People say bad things about you because they don’t know you.'”
Diallo, dressed in dark grey trousers, a blue jacket and white shirt, left after her brief comments and was followed to the car park by a frantic rush of camera crews.
Strauss-Kahn is not due back in court until August 23 for a hearing which has been delayed several times as prosecutors grapple with the increasingly messy case.
In an interview with ABC television over the weekend, Diallo talked forcefully in heavily accented but mostly fluent English about the sequence of events she says took place in the 28th floor suite at the Sofitel hotel.
She recounted the incident, saying Strauss-Kahn, once seen as a leading contender to be the next president of France, emerged naked from a shower to “grab my breasts” and despite her pleas, forced her head down to his penis.