NEW YORK — A hotel maid who accuses ex-International Monetary Fund boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault sued him Monday over what she calls a “violent and sadistic” attack in an upscale suite that left her life “in shambles.”
Lawyers for the maid, Guinean immigrant Nafissatou Diallo, wrote in the lawsuit that Strauss-Kahn “intentionally, brutally and violently sexually assaulted Ms. Diallo and in the process humiliated, degraded, violated and robbed Ms. Diallo of her dignity as a woman.”
The lawyers, Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor, promised to tell a jury about other instances when Strauss-Kahn sexually attacked women in hotel rooms and apartments, coerced employees into complying with sexual demands or accosted women with inappropriate sexual remarks and tried to get them to perform sexual acts.
They said the lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, would “redress the violent and sadistic attack by defendant Strauss-Kahn on Nafissatou Diallo when he sexually assaulted” her on May 14 at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan.
The lawsuit says Strauss-Kahn injured Diallo’s shoulder, bruised her vagina, tore her pantyhose and violently grabbed the back of her head during the attack.
The lawsuit, filed in state court in the Bronx, accuses Strauss-Kahn of acting like a common criminal afterward, fleeing the hotel so quickly that he left behind traces of his semen, along with bloody tissues.
“In his haste to flee the scene of a crime, he rushed out of the hotel with toothpaste smeared on the outside of his mouth and was looking over his shoulders,” the lawsuit says.
The attack has left Diallo physically and psychologically harmed, with permanent damage done to her professional and personal reputations along with severe mental anguish from which she may never fully recover, the lawsuit says. She suffers great emotional distress, humiliation, depression and physical pain, and the experience has “left Ms. Diallo’s life and her young daughter’s life in shambles,” it says.
Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn said the maid’s lawsuit has no merit and their client will fight it vigorously.
“We have maintained from the beginning that the motivation of Mr. Thompson and his client was to make money,” attorneys William W. Taylor and Benjamin Brafman said. “The filing of this lawsuit ends any doubt on that question.”
The filing of a civil lawsuit so quickly after an arrest provides an avenue for lawyers to pursue evidence and interview witnesses for a potential civil trial while memories are fresh. Other high-profile defendants who’ve faced civil suits and criminal charges at the same time include Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant and late pop music icon Michael Jackson.
Veteran defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, who’s not involved in the Strauss-Kahn case, said some lawyers delay filing a civil lawsuit to deprive the defense in a criminal trial from asking witnesses questions about the civil suit. But he added that he has found that the majority of lawyers file civil suits in sexual-assault cases before criminal trials.
“It may have some effect on the jury’s verdict, but it rarely decides the outcome,” he said.
An Annapolis, Md., defense lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse cases, Tom A. Pavlinic, said Diallo put her credibility at risk by bringing the civil lawsuit.
“She has done him a favor,” Pavlinic said. “Prosecutors, in my experience, don’t like when complainants in criminal cases initiate litigation in a civil case.”
The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment on the filing of the lawsuit.
Strauss-Kahn, widely seen as a potentially successful French presidential candidate before his May 14 arrest, was pulled off a plane and detained hours after Diallo reported she was attacked. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted rape and other crimes. He and his lawyers have called a series of interviews Diallo conducted in recent weeks “an unseemly circus” designed to inflame public opinion.
Strauss-Kahn, who’s 65 and married, resigned his IMF post after his arrest. He was freed from house arrest last month after prosecutors said publicly that they had discovered facts that cast doubt on his 32-year-old accuser’s credibility.
Prosecutors have said Diallo lied about her background – including telling them an emotional story of being gang-raped in her homeland. She says now she was raped but not in the manner she described as part of an application for U.S. asylum.
Strauss-Kahn, who isn’t permitted to leave the United States, is due back in criminal court Aug. 23.
The Associated Press does not generally name accusers in sexual assault cases unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Diallo has done.
The lawsuit recounts Diallo’s version of what happened on a Saturday in May in the Presidential Suite at the luxurious Sofitel hotel, saying she entered the suite to make sure the guest had checked out, only to see Strauss-Kahn suddenly appear and charge at her completely naked.
It says he began to sexually attack Diallo, grabbing her breasts against her will and closing the door to prevent her from leaving the suite, where guests pay up to $3,000 per night to enjoy a bedroom, a living room, an office, multiple bathrooms and a corridor stretching from one end of the suite to the other.
The lawsuit says Strauss-Kahn pushed Diallo into a bedroom, where he forcibly tried to make her perform oral sex, ignoring her pleas to stop.
“With violence and depravity in his heart, and having the confidence of sexually assaulting other women in the past who did not immediately come forward, defendant Strauss-Kahn forced Ms. Diallo all the way to the back of the suite and down on her knees outside of a bathroom at the end of the corridor,” the lawsuit says.
It adds that Strauss-Kahn “violently grabbed the back of Ms. Diallo’s head” and committed a sexual assault.
Afterward, Diallo spit his semen onto the carpet and fled the room, reporting the attack to housekeeping supervisors, hotel security staff and police detectives, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says Strauss-Kahn appeared agitated and nervous after he jumped into a cab outside the hotel and met his daughter for a short lunch “that he hoped would provide him some sort of alibi.”
It says he called his wife in France on his way to the airport, saying in substance: “I have a serious problem in New York.”
The lawsuit says doctors and nurses who performed a sexual assault forensic examination on Diallo noted that she was “tearful” as she described the sexual assault and “paused while describing acts of fellatio.”