PARIS— Surveillance videos publicly aired for the first time Thursday show Dominique Strauss-Kahn leisurely checking out of a New York hotel where he was accused of committing sexual assault and show his accuser appearing to act out the alleged attack.
It was not immediately clear how France’s BFM television acquired the minutes-long segments. The clips were the basis of recent news reports suggesting Strauss-Kahn might have been the target of a political plot but had not previously been publicly broadcast.
Strauss-Kahn was initially charged with attempted rape after a hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, alleged he attacked her and forced her to perform oral sex. New York prosecutors dropped the charges after they said they lost confidence in Diallo, who has filed a civil case.
In the clips, Strauss-Kahn – the former head of the International Monetary Fund – exits an elevator, pays his bill and gets in a cab. BFM said those images were filmed about 20 minutes after the alleged May 14 assault. Strauss-Kahn, wearing a dark coat and wheeling a suitcase, does not appear hurried or nervous.
A separate segment BFM said was filmed about 40 minutes after the alleged attack shows Diallo slumped against a wall in a corridor reserved for hotel staff. The images are heavily pixelated, and it’s impossible to make out the expression on her face.
At one point, she appears to act out the attack, grabbing her own breast and pursuing a colleague, her arms outstretched.
Diallo’s lawyers insisted the images strengthen her case against Strauss-Kahn.
“This video shows actions of a victim, not someone who’s part of some plot to bring down a man that she had never seen before in her life,” attorney Kenneth Thompson told reporters at a news conference, where the images were played.
None of the clips show either Strauss-Kahn or Diallo emerging from the suite in the Sofitel hotel where the attack allegedly took place because, BFM explained, there are no surveillance cameras on that floor.
The BFM clips broadcast do, however, include a brief sequence in which two Sofitel employees hug one another and do a joyful little dance as they confer in a dark basement corridor. Recent news reports pointed to the dance as evidence of an alleged political plot against Strauss-Kahn.
In a statement Thursday, Sofitel’s parent company, French hotel group Accor, said “The idea that these videos prove Accor’s involvement in a conspiracy is nonsense.”
The two staffers in the video told an Accor attorney they had “no knowledge of the political status of Dominique Strauss-Kahn before this tape excerpt,” the statement said. “They also reaffirmed that they could not remember exactly the reasons for this ‘congratulatory action,’” or dance.
“Despite malicious and unfounded allegations, it is not for Accor to take sides and/or comment on any aspect of this matter,” the statement added. “Accor was not favorable to public dissemination of these video sequences, which unnecessarily expose members of the Sofitel New York staff to the curiosity of the media.”
Strauss-Kahn’s attorney, William Taylor, retorted that the Sofitel’s explanation was “not persuasive.
“We are extremely troubled that the two hotel personnel were caught on film embracing and dancing immediately after a 911 call was made to the New York City Police,” Taylor said in a statement Thursday.
French government officials have ridiculed the theory of a plot – first published late last month in The New York Review of Books – and Interior Minister Claude Gueant dismissed the notion as a “fantasy.”
The rape charges badly damaged Strauss-Kahn’s reputation, and other scandals – including allegations by a French writer that he sexually assaulted her during a 2003 interview and claims he was linked to a suspected hotel prostitution ring – have effectively ended his political career.
The Associated Press does not name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or come forward publicly, as Diallo has done.