Strauss-Kahn — powerful head of the International Monetary Fund and potential French Presidential Candidate — arrested and removed from a Paris-bound Air France flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport was accused of sexually assaulting a maid at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan six weeks ago. The accuser said the assault took place earlier that day in Strauss-Kahn’s $3,000-a-night suite.
The Clear Case Of A Besmirched Accuser
After confinement in jail and then house arrest for weeks, Strauss-Kahn regained some freedom as over-zealous prosecutors reported to the case judge that they had serious concerns about the accuser and validity of her account. The case continued to unravel this past Saturday amid deepening questions, as prosecutors revealed:
- The woman admitted she lied to a grand jury about what she did immediately after the alleged attack. She actually went on cleaning rooms instead of reporting the episode right away, prosecutors told the defense in a letter.
- After the alleged attack, the woman spoke by phone with her boyfriend/”husband” — a criminal defendant in a drug case in Arizona — and a law enforcement official revealed, “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing.’ ”
- She admitted to prosecutors that on her asylum application she lied extensively, including a claim of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea.
- She claimed someone else’s child as her own dependent and lied about her income on tax forms, prosecutors said.
Rights Behind The Presumption Of Innocence?
Photos after Strauss-Kahn’s arrest — published in every major US newspaper and televised on every major news show — of a disheveled Strauss-Kahn being led in handcuffs by uniformed NYPD from a Manhattan police station led to howls of protest in France about a rush to judgment.
The arrest shocked Strauss-Kahn’s native France, where he was seen as the leading candidate to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.
Strauss-Kahn subsequently stepped down as head of the IMF. He was replaced last week by Christine Lagarde, previously the minister of finance in France.
European Union member countries, including France, are bound by their more advanced version of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights: “The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.” Article 48 provides:
- Everyone who has been charged shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
- Respect for the rights of the defense of anyone who has been charged shall be guaranteed.
EU laws under this provision prohibit photos of any accused in shackles or restraint from being published until proven guilty. It is no wonder people in France were shocked by photos of uniformed NYPD officers leading handcuffed Strauss-Kahn out of the precinct in front of paparazzi.
Whether or not NY DA Cyrus Vance has encouraged his deputies and NYPD to understand current internationally recognized standards, police tactics of publicly parading an accused also disregard Anglo-Saxon traditions of fairness and justice. For many decades before the EU mandate, in the UK and many other English speaking countries, police “perp walks” and prosecutors selectively leaking evidence would both have led to court sanctions for the police, prosecutors, and media who engaged in it.
NYPD officers and their supervising DA have revealed to the world that the USA’s legal system demonstrates the tendencies of a regressive, third-world-standard that has moved us downward as a civilized nation. These recent actions not only cost Strauss-Kahn his candidacy for French President, they will cause second thoughts in the minds of US-admiring nationals and thousands of prospective top students coming to the USA.
July 4th & Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Now, to be certain, investigators found traces of Strauss-Kahn’s semen on the maid’s uniform, and that is powerful evidence there was a sexual encounter of some kind — some kind — and the defense has said anything that happened was not forced. While moralizers may stake a claim against the unbridled sex drive of a powerful man, consensual sex is not illegal.
I am guilty of a rush to judgment here, as well, for my own experience interacting with or observing powerful executives and people of extreme wealth is that the greatest extension of their insatiable power lust is through sexual dominance. And, if you’ve never told the President or Executive Vice-President of a Fortune 500 firm that they have crossed the bounds, you should know that the whiplash reaction to obtain one’s submission is stunning.
Strauss-Kahn was provided no latitude within my own mind. Nor was he provided it by our legal system.
We have forgotten the merits of the proposition that one is “innocent until proven guilty.” Where once we were proud of our national choice to release a guilty party rather than imprison one innocent person, we now seem more comfortable with Russia’s theme, imprisoning all guilty suspects unless (not until, but unless) proven innocent. Perhaps that is why we now imprison a greater percentage of the US population than was ever behind bars in the former Communist Soviet Union.