Courtesy CNNNew York
The woman accusing former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her insisted she was “telling the truth from my heart,” in an interview broadcast Monday.
“I want justice. I want him to go to jail,” Nafissatou Diallo told ABC. “I want him to know you cannot use your power when you do something like this.”
The 32-year-old hotel maid, whose credibility has been called into question by prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, said she was terrified when she found out how powerful Strauss-Kahn was.
When she saw news reports explaining that the man she was accusing was a leading candidate for the French presidency, “I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ I was crying. I said, ‘They’re going to kill me, I’m going to die.’ ” That’s because in her nativeGuinea,West Africa, accusing “a powerful man like that” would put her life in danger, she said.
Diallo’s choice to go public with her accusations in the middle of a pending criminal investigation is extremely unusual. She spoke with both ABC and Newsweek magazine.
CNN previously has not identified Diallo, given the network’s policy against naming alleged sexual assault victims. But it is now naming her, in light of her decision to make her case to the media.
On May 14, Diallo accused Strauss-Kahn, 62, of assaulting and trying to rape her atManhattan’s Sofitel Hotel, where she was an employee. He was charged inNew Yorkwith sexual abuse and attempted rape, pleading not guilty on all counts.
He insists the encounter with Diallo was consensual.
Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman issued a revised statement Monday standing by their earlier claim that Diallo is “the first accuser in history to conduct a media campaign to persuade a prosecutor to pursue charges against an innocent person from whom she wants money.”
“These efforts are a desperate distraction from the key fact that Ms. Diallo has had to admit to misleading these very same prosecutors from the beginning. And, her lawyers know that her claim for money suffers a fatal blow when the criminal charges are dismissed as they must be,” the statement said.
Accompanied by her lawyers, Diallo plans to meet with prosecutors inManhattan, a source close to the investigation tells CNN.
This would be the first such meeting in nearly a month. Relations between the two parties have been strained since Diallo’s attorney Kenneth Thompson held a news conference in which he graphically detailed the alleged attack and then accused prosecutors of abandoning his client.
In addition to the state case, Thompson said Monday that he plans to file a lawsuit this week against Strauss-Kahn on behalf of Diallo.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers said, referring to Diallo and her attorney’s actions, said, “The number of rallies, press conferences and media events they have orchestrated is exceeded only by the number of lies and misstatements she has made to law enforcement, friends, medical professionals and reporters … It is time for this unseemly circus to stop.”
Thompson shot back, accusing Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys of conducting “an unprecedented smear campaign against the victim of a violent sexual attack.”
“Because of those contemptible, baseless and anonymous attacks, Ms. Diallo was forced to come forward in order to put a face to the brutal crime,” Thompson said in a statement.
On July 1, a judge freed Strauss-Kahn from house arrest after prosecutors presented evidence showing that Diallo admitted she had lied about the specifics of her whereabouts after the incident and, from her past, the details of an asylum application and information she put on tax forms.
Prosecutors said she admitted lying on the asylum application about having been a victim of a gang rape, even providing details of that attack. She cried when she first told prosecutors about the alleged gang rape, but in a subsequent interview, she admitted it never occurred. She said the fabricated account on the asylum application was made with the assistance of a man who “provided her with a cassette recording of the facts” so that she could memorize them.
ABC reported that in the interview, Diallo acknowledged “mistakes.”
But she insisted that her story of what happened in the hotel is the unvarnished truth.
“He came to me and grabbed my breasts,” she told ABC, adding that she asked him to stop and said “I don’t want to lose my job.”
“I was like, ‘Stop this, stop this,’ ” she said in the interview. But, she insisted, Strauss-Kahn “kept pushing me back to the hallway. … I was so afraid. I was so scared.”
In the interview with Newsweek, conducted at her lawyer’s office inNew York City, Diallo said Strauss-Kahn was naked when he slammed the door shut to his luxury hotel room, forced himself upon her and tried to make her perform oral sex on him.
She said she was “nervous” and “scared” when she eventually ran from Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room, ending an incident that took about 15 minutes.
Strauss-Kahn was initially arrested atNew York’sJohnF.KennedyInternationalAirportwhile on board a Paris-bound plane. His arrest created an international furor, prompting his resignation as IMF chief as New York Judge Michael Obus ordered him held under a $6 million bail. Political watchers inFrancesaid he would no longer be a likely candidate for the upcoming presidential election.
While prosecutors have questioned Diallo’s credibility, the charges against Strauss-Kahn have not been dismissed.
There have been further twists in recent weeks, including writer Tristane Banon’s filing of a complaint accusing Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape inFrance, stemming from an alleged 2003 incident inParis. A lawyer for Strauss-Kahn inFrancesaid he subsequently filed a counterclaim against Banon for false declarations.
Diallo filed a libel lawsuit against the New York Post and five of its reporters after the newspaper reported that the woman accusing Strauss-Kahn was a prostitute. The paper cited anonymous sources and said it stands by its reporting.
“Because of him, they call me a prostitute,” Diallo said in the Newsweek interview, blaming Strauss-Kahn for the accusations.
Strauss-Kahn’s next court date for theNew Yorkincident is scheduled for August 1. The hearing had been pushed back from mid-July as prosecutors tried to determine whether to drop the charges or move forward in the case, said Erin Duggan, communications director for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
On Sunday, amid the fresh attention related to Diallo’s interviews, Duggan declined to comment on what she called the “pending criminal case.”
“To protect the integrity of the criminal justice system, the rights of the victim and the rights of the accused, we will not discuss the facts or evidence in what remains an ongoing investigation,” she said in a statement.
CNN’s Susan Candiotti and Adam Reiss contributed to this report.