What Happened in Room 2806: Three Possibilities
By JOHN ELIGON
Even as the criminal case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn erodes with each new example of his accuser’s crumbling credibility, the central question remains unanswered: What actually happened in Room 2806 of the Sofitel New York on May 14?
Times Topic: Dominique Strauss-Kahn
About New York: Deadly Sins of the Month: Lust and Greed (July 8, 2011)
City Room: Morgenthau Comes to Vance’s Defense (July 7, 2011)
In Hospital Report, Housekeeper’s Graphic Account of Attack (July 5, 2011)
Certain facts are not in dispute. As the illustration above shows, electronic evidence reveals what time the accuser, a 32-year-old hotel housekeeper from Guinea, entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite. Physical evidence indicates that a sexual encounter took place.
The housekeeper has characterized the encounter as a sexual assault. Lawyers for Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, have said any sexual act was consensual. Others have offered other theories.
Here is a look at three possible sequences of events, and how the available evidence — physical, electronic and witness testimony — could support each of them.
A Forced, and Brief, Encounter
The housekeeper has told police officers, prosecutors and hospital officials that Mr. Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex.
Law enforcement officials believed that her account, offered in graphic detail, was credible: Mr. Strauss-Kahn, naked, emerged after she entered to clean the room. He locked the door, pushed her to the bed and began to assault her. She got away, but then he grabbed her, pulling her toward the bathroom. She fell and he forced her to perform oral sex; she told a hospital counselor, among others, that she spit on the carpet after he was done.
Prosecutors have said in court that forensic evidence was consistent with the housekeeper’s account, but they did not provide specifics. The woman’s lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, however, offered more details last week.
He said there was evidence that his client had spit semen onto the wall and the floor of the suite, consistent with the notion that she was an unwilling participant.
The woman also suffered bruising to her vaginal area (she told investigators Mr. Strauss-Kahn grabbed her there), and she tore a ligament in her shoulder, Mr. Thompson said. Prosecutors have not publicly confirmed whether the woman had those injuries.
A law enforcement official has also said that Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s semen was found on the housekeeper’s clothes.
The short period in which Mr. Strauss-Kahn and the woman were both in the suite might also indicate “something other than a consensual act,” Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the lead prosecutor on the case, said. According to a law enforcement official, the housekeeper’s card-key data suggests she was in the room with Mr. Strauss-Kahn for no longer than 20 minutes.
Prosecutors may also suggest that surveillance footage of Mr. Strauss-Kahn leaving the hotel — he checked out at 12:28 p.m. — speaks in their favor. A prosecutor has said in court that Mr. Strauss-Kahn appeared to be in a hurry.
And although the accuser’s credibility has come into question, law enforcement officials have said that her account of what happened in the hotel suite has been largely consistent.
A Consensual Act
Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have suggested in court that the encounter that he had with the housekeeper was consensual.
The piece of evidence that they might find the most compelling in making this argument is Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s body. After his arrest, he was taken for an examination at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn. He did not have any physical injuries, according to two people briefed on the defense’s case, which his lawyers may use to suggest that there was no struggle.
The defense would also probably argue against a forcible encounter by pointing out that the woman is larger than Mr. Strauss-Kahn, though experts in sexual assault say that such an attack does not always require physical strength, a weapon or a struggle.
The woman’s actions after the encounter could also indicate a consensual act. According to a hospital report, the woman said that after the attack, Mr. Strauss-Kahn got dressed and “left the room, and that he said nothing to her during the incident.”
Defense lawyers may use that to suggest that the woman remained in the room during this time, something that a woman who was just attacked would seem unlikely to do.
Electronic card-key records show that after the encounter, the housekeeper left Room 2806 and entered Room 2820 — a sequence that differed from what she had told the police, and possibly more suggestive of a woman not under duress.
People familiar with the defense’s investigation would also focus on Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s actions after the encounter; they say that he had a leisurely lunch with his daughter at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant. If that is the case, defense lawyers would see if surveillance cameras at the restaurant captured that, and suggest that such behavior was not indicative of a man who had just committed a crime.
After the lunch, Mr. Strauss-Kahn told security personnel at the Sofitel that he believed he had lost his cellphone, and that he was at Kennedy Airport. His lawyers have said in court that if he had committed a sexual crime, he would not have volunteered his whereabouts.
While both sides agree that a sexual encounter took place inside the hotel suite, one question is whether some misunderstanding between Mr. Strauss-Kahn and the housekeeper led to whatever transpired.
Under this theory, the oral sex began as a consensual act, but something later drove the housekeeper to press criminal charges.
All of the evidence that points to a consensual encounter would apply to this sequence of events. Any DNA evidence would be seen as inconclusive as to whether the sexual act was forced; the absence of injuries to Mr. Strauss-Kahn also would argue against an attack.
But to accept the encounter as truly consensual would require envisioning a 32-year-old woman spontaneously deciding to engage in oral sex with a man nearly twice her age whom she had never met before.
Defense lawyers are likely to question the woman’s motives by highlighting a recording of a conversation the woman had with a man in an Arizona jail about a day after she said she was attacked. The woman said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,” according to a law enforcement official. (The woman’s lawyer has disputed the translation.)
The woman’s movements after the encounter may also be a point of focus for the defense. While she originally told prosecutors that she waited in the hallway for Mr. Strauss-Kahn to leave, she later said that she cleaned a nearby room before re-entering Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite and reporting the attack to a supervisor.
The defense is likely to question why the woman returned to the suite before reporting the episode to her supervisor.
Card-key data shows that the woman first entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s room at 12:06 p.m. At 12:26, she entered a nearby room, 2820 — which she had cleaned earlier that morning — and returned to 2806, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s room, in the same minute, according to her card-key information, a person who has seen the records said.