NEW YORK — Dominique Strauss-Kahn claimed immunity Monday as he sought the dismissal of a US civil case, accusing a hotel maid of inventing sexual assault claims that derailed his efforts to right the global economy.
“As managing director, which is the chief executive position at the IMF, Mr. Strauss-Kahn enjoyed absolute immunity from civil suit,” said a motion filed by his lawyers at a court in the Bronx in New York.
Criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn were dropped in August when prosecutors lost faith in the credibility of hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, but she is pursuing her civil case against the one-time French presidential hopeful.
Strauss-Kahn did not claim immunity in the criminal case as the alleged incident happened while he was staying in New York in a personal capacity, but his lawyers appear to think the same does not apply in the civil courts.
The motion to dismiss said it made no difference that when Diallo filed her civil case on August 8 Strauss-Kahn was no longer head of the IMF.
“Mr. Strauss-Kahn enjoyed absolute immunity under customary international law not only while he was head of the IMF, but also for the period of time after he had resigned from his post and was ordered to remain in the United States in his criminal matter.
“That is because, under applicable and controlling international law, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s absolute immunity persisted until he was able to leave the United States,” the motion said.
The filing also attacked Diallo for imperiling the efforts of the International Monetary Fund, with Strauss-Kahn at the helm, to right the world economy at a crucial time after the financial crisis.
“Under Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s leadership, the IMF was actively engaged in responding to the global economic crisis on several fronts in the spring of 2011,” it said.
“As a direct result of (the) plaintiff’s false charge of sexual assault, the IMF’s ability to serve its critical function in the international economy was significantly impaired at a time of worldwide financial crisis and instability.”
Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign as managing director of IMF when he was arrested in May and charged with the sexual assault and attempted rape of Diallo in his suite at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan.
The French economist walked free late last month when a criminal court judge dismissed the charges against him after prosecutors said they could not pursue the case because of her repeated lying.
DNA evidence indicated that a sexual encounter did occur between the two, but Strauss-Kahn’s defense team insists that it was consensual.
Diallo, a 32-year-old Guinean immigrant, maintains her allegations and filed the civil suit against Strauss-Kahn, seeking unspecified damages for what she called a “sadistic” attack.
Strauss-Kahn says he had consensual sex with Diallo, and his attorney Benjamin Brafman described the incident as a “momentary lapse of judgment that was not criminal.”
Bob Bennett, a former federal prosecutor and lawyer who represented Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair, said it was unlikely that judge Douglas McKeon would agree to dismiss the civil case right away.
“A court is likely to say that a jury must decide after hearing all the evidence,” he said.
Strauss-Kahn, who was seen as a frontrunner in next year’s French presidential election before the sensational charges were brought against him, returned to France on September 4.
The former French finance minister, whose political career is now in tatters, broke his silence in a prime-time French television interview on September 18.
Over 13 million people tuned in to watch the interview in which Strauss-Kahn made an admission of “a moral failing.”
“What happened involved neither violence nor constraint: no criminal act,” he insisted.
Strauss-Kahn still faces investigation in France over a separate claim by a young French author, Tristane Banon, that he tried to rape her in 2003.
The Socialist politician has denied any wrongdoing and lodged a countersuit for defamation.
A source close to the inquiry told AFP on condition of anonymity that Strauss-Kahn told police he made a pass at Banon but did not try to attack her.