Strauss-Kahn case may also vindicate U.S. justice
By Reynolds Holding
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
The latest developments in the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn have not only eased the terms of his detainment but may also vindicate the U.S. justice system. New York cops took heat from far and wide for quickly and publicly detaining the ex-International Monetary Fund boss, helping feed a broad rush to judgment. But it sounds as if prosecutors were the ones to uncover some holes in the case against him. That suggests Strauss-Kahn was treated without fear or favor.
Prosecutors did themselves no favors by claiming early on that the allegations by Strauss-Kahn’s accuser were “compelling and unwavering.” They also were dismissive of French anger about the IMF chief’s perp walk in handcuffs.
Now doubt has been cast on the alleged victim’s credibility because of a previous rape claim and ties to a drug dealer. The whole case may collapse as a result. If prosecutors have overreached, the cost has been high. Strauss-Kahn spent almost six weeks under expensive house arrest and a cloud of public humiliation before he was released on Friday. He was forced to resign from the international organization he led amid economic upheaval in Greece. France may have lost a potential presidential candidate.
But it’s the prosecutors themselves who seem to have aggressively challenged the hotel chambermaid’s story. Maybe they should have checked more thoroughly before taking the case to a grand jury. But revealing their doubts so swiftly indicates they’re playing it straight with the accused. And while yanking Strauss-Kahn off a plane and then bringing him in with the cameras rolling may have offended some observers, it was nothing out of the ordinary for a high-profile U.S. case.
Either of the more likely outcomes now looks awful. A high-powered diplomat could get away with a crime because of the credibility of his victim. Or a world leader’s reputation may have been unfairly besmirched by the public airing of a fake rape charge. Even if the charges are dropped, Strauss-Kahn’s name wouldn’t entirely be cleared in the court of public opinion.
It’s true that justice may not get served in this instance. And Manhattan prosecutors may have overplayed their hand. But by owning up to the misstep in such a conspicuous case, they also have helped to preserve the integrity of the system.