Strauss-Kahn Becomes A Free Man

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A judge has formally dismissed criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The day brought a measure of relief for the former International Monetary Fund chief, but it does not mark an end to his legal woes.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block.

A judge in New York City has dismissed criminal charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In a moment, we'll have reaction from France, where Strauss-Kahn was once considered a front-runner to be president. That was before the former head of the International Monetary Fund was pulled off a plane at JFK Airport and accused of sexual assault.

As NPR's Joel Rose reports, today's decision marks a dramatic turnabout since May.

JOEL ROSE: At first, prosecutors described Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser as unwavering, and the case was strong enough to persuade a grand jury to indict him on seven counts. But today, prosecutors told a judge they no longer thought they could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, mainly because of grave concerns about the accuser's credibility. The judge agreed to dismiss all criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn, who was quickly whisked away from court. His lawyer Ben Brafman stayed behind to address reporters.

BEN BRAFMAN: Unless you have been falsely accused of a very serious crime that you did not commit, it is impossible for you to understand or grasp the full measure of relief that Dominique Strauss-Kahn feels today.

ROSE: Brafman praised prosecutors for having the guts, as he put it, to drop the charges. But Strauss-Kahn's other lawyer, William Taylor, was more critical of how the Manhattan District Attorney's Office handled the case early on.

WILLIAM TAYLOR: It is fair to say there was a collective rush to judgment not only by law enforcement, but also by the media.

ROSE: Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have contended from the beginning that whatever happened in his Manhattan hotel suite was not sexual assault. But Kenneth Thompson, the lawyer for Strauss-Kahn's accuser, argues just as vehemently that it was a crime.

KENNETH THOMPSON: Do you really believe that she agreed to engage in a consensual sexual act with a man she's never seen before?

ROSE: In their motion to dismiss the charges, prosecutors concede that there is physical evidence of a sexual encounter between Strauss-Kahn and his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. And Diallo's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, blasted Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance for declining to pursue that evidence.

THOMPSON: District Attorney Vance had abandoned an innocent woman, and has denied an innocent woman a right to get justice in a rape case.

ROSE: The Manhattan district attorney was preparing to address reporters today just as a mild earthquake interrupted his news conference. But in their motion to dismiss the charges, prosecutors say Diallo undermined her own credibility by lying to them repeatedly about her past, and about what happened in the moments after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn.

Diallo's lawyer urged the court to appoint a special prosecutor in the case, but that request was denied today. She is still pursuing a case against Strauss-Kahn in civil court. The Manhattan D.A.'s Office did not exonerate the former IMF chief. But prosecutors stopped short of taking a firm stand on what exactly happened in his hotel room, saying only that concerns about the defendant's credibility made the question, quote, impossible to resolve. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.

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