Strauss-Kahn case may also vindicate U.S. justice

July 1, 2011

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.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Hmmm… seems to me those are the kinds of investigations into accusers you do BEFORE destroying someone else’s life. DSK has been fired and disgraced and had his future potential taken from him; NYPD and American Justice owe him more than a conciliatory ‘oops!’ and all the ‘gotcha media’ who never really questioned the NYPD story deserve a rebuke!

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive

I don’t think American justice looks all that great. It’s not the initial arrest but the subsequent dog and pony show that we were treated to – parading the guy around in handcuffs, prosecutors crowing on television and Bloomberg shooting off his mouth. This was all going on before authorities were in possession of some rather important facts and that shouldn’t happen. As for the prosecution aggressively investigating the allegations, that’s their job but I don’t think they necessarily did it for Strauss-Kahn’s benefit. What it comes down to is that no prosecutor wants to be surprised by anything a defense lawyer might say in court and with the high-priced lawyers in this case a thorough review was mandatory. They then stumbled into a mine field of problems that they knew the defense would dig up as well.

Posted by Kendall442 | Report as abusive

Congratulations Mr Holding on your clear and fair analysis of the situation. What about the so called colleagues of the alleged victim, screaming at DSK outside the court? NY is supposed to be a cosmopolite and sophisticated city…And the Sofitel attitude… The Director should be fired…This affair does no good to America’s image in the world.

Posted by guacolda | Report as abusive

Dear Gringo
How is it possible? It is possible because of small matters called “freedom of the press” and “freedom of speech”. In america one is allowed to say virtually anything. That includes slanderous insults about rich french politicians. How is it possible for supposedly civilized societies to ban political speech. In Europe you ban Nazi symbols, send people to jail for denial of the Holocaust and jail them for insulting Islam and Muslims. Such expressions may be reprehensible but only weak minded fools would feel it necessary to turn them into matters for the courts.

Posted by hacimo | Report as abusive

Let’s not forget the similarities between this case and the Duke lacrosse case and the miserable gang of 88 professors who rushed to condemn the innocent at Duke University. We pursue only politically correct pseudo justice in America. I am sure DSK paid and will yet pay plenty more. This sort of mis-justice is the true legacy of “social justice” replacing actual justice. American justice is far from vindicated. The prosecutor wanted to avoid what happened to the Duke prosecutor, that is all.

Posted by DrCarmine | Report as abusive

There is a reason why there are 2 million people incarcerated in the US. It’s a combination of police ineptness, arrogance and paranoia together wit the DA’s who don’t want to make their enforcers look bad at a cost of sending innocent people to prison.
If you are poor and stand accused of committing a crime your chance of being convicted are as good as 100%. You will be offered a plea bargain and if you won’t take it you will be convicted with the help of “expert witnesses” from prosecution, police testimony which is never questioned in court and a public defendant who has too many clients to fight for at the same time.
DA’s cannot afford to loose, ’cause it makes them look bad on their resume.

I speak of my personal experience, as I had been falsely accused of the crime that somebody else had committed. My business was search by a gang of uniform goons from South San Francisco Police department, without any over site by an impartial observer to insure police didn’t plant any evidence. After they had realized that they had made a mistake they had left without apologizing for wasting 3 hours of my time and getting my blood pressure shoot up. Police would have never had to search my business in the first place if they would have done a bit of detective work so often performed on TV (alas not in real life) and checked a chronology of the crime, which turns out requires some mental work unlike sending a request to the judge to request a search warrant.

Posted by 74LS08 | Report as abusive

They had to arrest him before he left the country, or they would not have had a case to investigate.

In the investigation, one unsavory detail after another came out about the complaining witness.

It also came out that DSK has an unsavory reputation, not only as a ladies’ man, but as an attempted rapist.

But with a witness like the sleaze they’ve got, they will never be able to prove anything.

In any case, a sex act occurred between the eminent DSK and this sleazebag maid. If it wasn’t assault, it had to be prostitution. What is the alternative? That she did it for fun?

Prostitution is illegal too, the last I checked. It brought down Elliott Spitzer, but France is different. I think they would turn a blind eye to his using the services of a prostitute. What bothers them is the details that have emerged about his lifestyle and what it says to them: “I’m-ultra-rich-but-socialism-is-good-en ough-for-everyone-else”, and his aggressiveness with women in France. These things will make them say, “Assez!”

Posted by NewsLady | Report as abusive

don’t fret for DSK, he’ll make much more from the book than he would have if he continued on as head of IMF and his popularity has increased in France so perhaps he’s the next in line there, unless of course the writer he tried to ride prevails….

Posted by onchor | Report as abusive