Monday, 4 July 2011

DSK took the IRT down to Main Street, USA

Did the former head of the IMF try to rape a hotel maid, and if not, what the f*** was going on last month?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was all set to become president of France and instead ended up wearing an ankle bracelet and doing the perp walk through lower Manhattan. The French are justifiably skeptical when not appalled at the way the accused are guilty until proven innocent under the American justice/media roasting system. Did political considerations play a role in the unfolding debacle?

First, as we know now, the sterling credibility of the main witness against DSK is now tarnished beyond repair as she was found to be lying about the gang rape she said she had suffered back home, lying about what she did after the DSK incident and hiding the huge cash deposits she had received into a series of bank accounts. She’s also tight buddies with a dubious sort sitting in an Arizona jail for drugs trafficking. Some shortcomings in yer police work there, as Frances McDormand’s sheriff in Fargo would say.

It must be cause for considerable chortling among the many people swept up in the NYPD nets and charged with serious crimes based on equally flimsy evidence and who do not have the resources to meet a $6 million bail as DSK did. For example, the fellow arrested for the wild shooting spree on the Coney Island boardwalk a few weeks ago that resulted in the death of a young girl swore to reporters that he didn’t do it—what are the chances he will be railroaded by a system eager to ‘solve’ this case and put someone away for it?

However, incompetence does not equal conspiracy. Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr., is getting smacked around a lot for the high-profile sloppiness with which the case was handled, and he deserves the hot-seat after climbing into the office on the old-boy network rather than merit. But by all accounts he’s not a scumbag, and it was his own office that revealed the DSK accuser’s unreliability.

A much more curious element is the role of police commissioner Ray Kelly, outlined in a fascinating piece by NYPD gadfly Leonard Levitt on May 30. Turns out Kelly is some sort of BFF of French president Nicolas Sarkozy who stood to benefit mightily from the downfall of his principal rival. Kelly is known to be particularly harsh on leakers, but his reaction to the full airing of the anti-DSK case in the early days drew only a pro forma rebuke. No doubt the French press will make considerable hay of the Kelly-Sarkozy friendship now that the whole case is wobbling.

While DSK may soon be off to France to pick up the shards of his mighty career, the fallout here in New York may continue for quite some time. The maid is now facing a grilling about her asylum application, among other things, and it would be interesting to know if she was living in a special residential facility based on faked medical records, the fake daughter that she apparently used to lower her tax liabilities or some other modification of the facts. An immigrant hotel maid with $100,000 in cash in a bank account that she forgot to mention certainly does have some explaining to do.

Of course, women who are not model citizens can also be raped, but now seems like a good time to await more facts and not rush forward to accuse or defend anyone until they are clarified. Nevertheless, while remaining in the hypothetical realm, let’s keep in mind that lying to obtain asylum is not a victimless crime given that plenty of people who really are persecuted and threatened face skeptical bureaucracies and are turned away precisely because people have learned to game the system so cleverly.

The case illustrates how media glare can be both violent and salutary, can shred reputations fairly or unfairly while also providing a window of opportunity to get to the bottom of things. It would be nice if reporters were equally assiduous in delving into facts when less glorious beings than DSK are among the accused.

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