NEW YORK – The hotel maid accusing Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in a Manhattan hotel room shattered her silence Sunday, saying in a published report that the former International Monetary Fund leader grabbed and attacked her as she implored him to stop.
"I said, 'Sir, stop this. I don't want to lose my job.' He said, 'You're not going to lose your job,'" Nafissatou Diallo told Newsweek in a cover story posted online Sunday. ABC News said it will broadcast an interview with her on three of its programs Monday.
"I push him. I get up. I wanted to scare him. I said, 'Look, there is my supervisor right there,'" she told Newsweek. But Strauss-Kahn said no one was there to hear, she said, and he went on to yank up her uniform dress, tear down her pantyhose, forcefully grab her crotch and then grip her head and force her to perform oral sex.
Strauss-Kahn denies the attempted rape and other charges, and his lawyers called the interviews "an unseemly circus" designed to inflame public opinion.
Diallo had rebuffed media attempts to interview her since Strauss-Kahn's May 14 arrest. Her name had been reported by some French media outlets but not by major U.S. media, which generally protect the identities of people who say they've been sexually assaulted.
The interviews come with the case against Strauss-Kahn in limbo after Manhattan prosecutors raised doubts about the housekeeper's overall credibility. They said July 1 she had lied about her life story and wasn't consistent about what she did right after Strauss-Kahn allegedly attacked her in his suite. The disclosures have prompted her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, to criticize prosecutors publicly and press them to keep going with the case.
Diallo told Newsweek she wants Strauss-Kahn held accountable, and she was going public to tell a story she said had never wavered.
"It never changed. I know what this man do to me," she told the magazine, adding that she wanted to counter what she felt were misleading portrayals of her.
"Because of him they call me a prostitute," said Diallo, who has sued the New York Post over stories in which anonymous sources said she sold sex for money; the newspaper has said it stands by its reporting. "I want him to go to jail. I want him to know there are some places you cannot use your power, you cannot use your money."
In a preview of ABC's interview posted online Sunday, Diallo said she never wanted to be in the public eye but had no choice amid questions about her credibility.
"I have to, for myself. I have to tell the truth," she said. The Newsweek interview also said she hadn't ruled out trying to make money from the situation, a suggestion that a lawsuit could be forthcoming.
The 32-year-old Guinean immigrant told Newsweek a room-service waiter told her Strauss-Kahn's suite was empty around noon May 14, so she knocked on the door and said, "Hello? Housekeeping." When he appeared in a hallway naked, she said, "I'm so sorry" and turned to leave — but he said, "You don't have to be sorry," closed the suite door and advanced on her "like a crazy man," she said.
She testified to a grand jury that after the alleged attack, she cowered in a hallway and watched Strauss-Kahn leave, then told a supervisor. Prosecutors said earlier this month that she later told them she actually had gone on cleaning rooms, including his then-empty suite, before consulting her supervisor. She told Newsweek she was disoriented and went into the rooms briefly before a supervisor appeared and asked why she was upset; Diallo denied changing her account.
Strauss-Kahn, widely seen as a potentially successful French presidential candidate before his arrest, was pulled off a plane and arrested hours later.
Besides the questions about her account of her movements after the alleged incident, Diallo lied about her background — including telling prosecutors an emotional story of being gang-raped in her homeland, they said. She told Newsweek she was raped by two soldiers but acknowledged she had embellished her life story on her 2003 asylum application; prosecutors have said she told them she repeated the lies to them to be consistent.
"Ms. Diallo is the first accuser in history to conduct a media campaign to persuade a prosecutor to pursue charges against a person from whom she wants money," Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, Benjamin Brafman and William W. Taylor III, said in a statement that blasted Thompson as unprofessional. "Her lawyers know that her claim for money suffers a fatal blow when the criminal charges are dismissed, as they must be," they said in a statement.
Thompson fired back with a statement of his own, saying Strauss-Kahn's lawyers "have conducted an unprecedented smear campaign against the victim of a violent sexual attack." He noted that they have said whatever happened in the suite wasn't forced.
"We are dealing with a brutal sexual attack, a mountain of physical evidence, a victim who spoke out immediately, and numerous corroborating witnesses," Thompson said in a statement.
Diallo's decision to speak publicly is an unusual — and risky — move for an accuser at this point in a criminal case, legal experts said. While it gives her a chance to tell her side of a story she evidently feels prosecutors are not telling for her, it enshrines a version of events that defense lawyers could mine for discrepancies with her grand jury testimony or other statements — or use as fodder for arguing that she was seeking money or public attention.
"On the one hand, there's an upside that perhaps it will encourage the prosecutors to move forward with their case. On the other hand, there's the risk that whatever she says can be used against her in a civil or criminal case, especially with respect to any inconsistencies," said Sanford Rubenstein, a New York lawyer who has represented crime victims and their families in several noted cases — and advised them not to give interviews while the case was ongoing, he said.
The Manhattan District Attorney's communications chief, Erin Duggan, said the investigation was continuing and declined to discuss the case further.
As for whether Diallo's interviews will increase pressure on the DA's office to keep pursuing the case, "you can't even really speculate," said Elizabeth Crotty, a defense lawyer who was an assistant district attorney there. "Because there's never really been a case like this."
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