New questions have been raised about the events in the New York hotel room where the former International Monetary Fund head and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn was alleged to have sexually assaulted a hotel maid.
The case against Strauss-Kahn was eventually dramatically dropped by a Manhattan court, but the scandal forced him to resign his IMF post and destroyed his chances of becoming the leading leftwing candidate to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency.
An exhaustively researched article in the New York Review of Books, published by veteran American investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein, has cast fresh doubt on exactly what happened in the Sofitel hotel room on 14 May between Strauss-Kahn and his accuser, Guinean-born maid Nafissatou Diallo.
In passages sure to delight Strauss-Kahn supporters and conspiracy theorists, Epstein’s lengthy article studied hotel door key and phone records and traced links to Strauss-Kahn’s potential political rivals, appearing to suggest the possibility that he had been set up.
Such allegations have been raised before, especially by some French media commentators. Some polls taken in France as the scandal dominated world headlines revealed sympathy for Strauss-Kahn. One showed that 57% of French people thought he had been the victim of a smear campaign. Diallo and her lawyers, however, have maintained that she was the victim of an unprovoked attack. She is now suing the French statesman in a civil court, which could result in a hefty damages award.
But Epstein’s article does appear to raise some odd questions about the case. It points out numerous holes and discrepancies in the accounts of those who portrayed Strauss-Kahn as an attacker, identifies a missing BlackBerry which may contain warnings to the Frenchman that he was being set up, and examines possible links between Sofitel staff and Strauss-Kahn’s political opponents.
The most unusual evidence described by Epstein is a security video of the hotel’s engineer, Brian Yearwood, and an unidentified man apparently celebrating the day’s events. Earlier, Yearwood had been communicating with John Sheehan, a security expert at Accor, which owns Sofitel, and whose boss, René-Georges Querry, once worked with a man now in intelligence for Sarkozy.