Strauss-Kahn to Face New Sex Complaint in France
PARIS — Dominique Strauss-Kahn will face another complaint alleging attempted rape, this one in France, according to the lawyer for a French novelist who said in an interview published on Tuesday that she wanted “a chance to be heard” about her accusation.
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The novelist, Tristane Banon, 32, claims that Mr. Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003, and said that she remained silent on the advice of her mother, a prominent Socialist. After Mr. Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York in May on a similar charge, Ms. Banon hired a lawyer, David Koubbi, who said Monday that the criminal complaint would be filed Tuesday.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers responded Monday evening, saying he had asked them to file a counter-complaint of slander against Ms. Banon. The lawyers, Henri Leclerc and Frédérique Baulieu, said in a statement that her accusations are “imaginary.”
Mr. Koubbi had said numerous times in the past two months that Ms. Banon would bring charges, but that he did not want her lawsuit to become mixed up with the one in New York, in which Mr. Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting a housekeeper who came to clean his hotel suite. However, that case appears to be collapsing in light of new evidence that casts doubt on the housekeeper’s credibility.
The turnaround caused a weekend flurry in France, as some Socialists discussed the possibility that Mr. Strauss-Kahn would be exonerated and return in time to run for the presidency after all. He had been widely seen as the party’s strongest candidate against President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s election.
But a new criminal procedure against him would render such a comeback — already unlikely, according to his own party — nearly unimaginable. If Ms. Banon files her complaint as expected, an investigative judge would be appointed to look into the allegations, but the process of deciding whether to prosecute could be lengthy.
The revelations about Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s alleged conduct with women that emerged as the New York case unfolded have by themselves hurt him with voters, especially women. Various quickie polls indicate that about half of French voters would prefer he not run, and it is considered more likely that he would play a supportive role for another Socialist candidate: probably Martine Aubry, who has led the party since 2008.
Mr. Koubbi had not previously given a date for filing the complaint. He did so in an interview with the weekly magazine L’Express, which was published on its Web site Monday. The magazine said Tuesday’s print issue would include an interview with Ms. Banon, as well as Mr. Koubbi’s announcement that he would send the complaint on Tuesday to the prosecutor, “who will receive it on Wednesday morning.”
In an excerpt released by the magazine, Ms. Banon offered a graphic account of her alleged encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in 2003, saying he grabbed her in a nearly empty apartment as she was interviewing him and dragged her to the floor, pulling off some of her clothes and forcing his hand into her underwear. She said she escaped by kicking him desperately.
“I know that half will believe me, the others not,” she said. “There is no good solution, only one that means I can finally look at myself in the mirror. For once, I want to be in control of what happens. I want people to listen to me, because I have, perhaps, finally, a chance to be heard.”
Ms. Banon said she had no connection to the New York case, but that if the housekeeper “lied on certain subjects, it doesn’t mean that she lied about the rape.” When she saw Mr. Strauss-Kahn freed from house arrest and immediately “dining in a luxurious restaurant with friends, it made me sick.” Mr. Strauss-Kahn denied Ms. Banon’s accusations in an interview in March for what was to be a campaign biography. “The scene she recounts is imaginary,” he told the author, Michel Taubmann, two months before being arrested in New York. “Do you see me throwing a woman on the floor and being violent, as she claims it?”
Asked why she had delayed taking legal action for eight years, Ms. Banon said: “It is very hard for every woman in this case. People are asking you to say what happened minute by minute, while you have only one wish: to forget minute by minute what happened.”
“It is even harder when you know in advance that it is doomed to failure,” she said. “In these matters it is one person’s word against the other. So what value would be placed on the word of a young trainee journalist working on her first book who was going to be suspected of seeking publicity?”
But, she said, she had written about the alleged incident in a 2006 novel, Trapéziste, or Trapeze Artist, in which a young woman tells of meeting a politician in an empty apartment. The character, based on herself, says, “I struggle, strike out, scream, he likes these cries, this guy is sick,” Ms. Banon said in the interview.
Mr. Koubbi refused to cooperate with the New York prosecution of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a choice that now appears to have been prescient. But he had planned to file Ms. Banon’s complaint this week, he has said, even before the other case weakened. Under French law, a complaint of attempted rape can be made within 10 years of the event.
Asked if his case would be hurt by fallout from the New York accuser’s credibility problems, Mr. Koubbi said, “What has happened in the U.S. is not our business,” adding that Ms. Banon’s testimony was “solid and well prepared.” He also denied any influence on him or his client by Mr. Sarkozy’s party, although Ms. Banon sometimes writes about social issues for a pro-Sarkozy Web site, atlantico.fr.
Asked Monday about the possibility of Mr. Strauss-Kahn running in the Socialist presidential primary, Benoît Hamon, a party spokesman, said, “In today’s world in which we live, the fact is that I think that this hypothesis is the weakest.”
Given events, Mr. Hamon said, it was not clear that Mr. Strauss-Kahn “wants to be a presidential candidate.” He added, “Let us give him space to breathe.”
Nominations for the Socialist primary close on July 13, five days before Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s next scheduled court date in New York, where he still faces felony charges. While he has been released from house arrest and his bail returned, he is not allowed to leave the United States.