Dominique Strauss-Kahn's rape charges to be dropped? 5 lessons

Prosecutors are expected to drop the hugely damaging sexual assault charges against the former IMF boss. What can we learn from this tawdry affair?

Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss Kahn
(Image credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is widely expected to formally drop rape charges against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn at a court hearing Tuesday, effectively ending a legal case that has roiled French politics, international finance, and the New York City legal world. Former prosecutors speculate that Vance believes the credibility of Strauss-Kahn's alleged victim, Sofitel hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, has been so compromised by a number of apparent lies and contradictions that he can't win a conviction. What lessons can we draw from this high-stakes debacle? Here are five:

1. Reputations are easier to destroy than build

The dismissal of the rape charges "doesn't mean that Strauss-Kahn is innocent, of course," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But as the one-time French presidential frontrunner will soon be cleared legally of any crime, "I think he has a right to ask, once this is over, where he goes to get his reputation back." Diallo's credibility has also been trashed, sometimes unfairly, says Andre Tartar at New York. That will be "a major stumbling block even for a civil case" she's filed against Strauss-Kahn. And as for Vance, his hold on his DA job looks "increasingly precarious."

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2. Sex-crime prosecutors need to look before they leap

Remember, says Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft, "DSK was hauled off an airplane, paraded in front of the media," and briefly locked up, while Diallo was granted anonymity until she chose to share her side with the media. "The NYPD and Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit need to learn to investigate first and arrest and charge later," after they've determined they have a solid case." Instead, "they jumped the gun and failed to objectively evaluate the facts" before arresting Strauss-Kahn — and destroying his career at the IMF.

3. In the end, power prevails

"This was never just a he said–she said" case, says Amy Davidson at The New Yorker. "She said, and there was a fair amount to back her up on the scene — the marks on her body, DNA, and the state her colleagues found her in" — while Strauss-Kahn offered nothing, not even a denial that there was a sexual encounter. Indeed, this is a classic battle of "David (Nafissatou Diallo), a poor immigrant chambermaid, against Goliath (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), a wealthy and powerful man," says Bennett Gershman at The Huffington Post. And look who won.

4. DSK is still "guilty of being a creep"

Even if Strauss-Kahn "didn't force Diallo, he still thought it was all right to get his jollies off in a hotel suite" when the maid came in, says Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News. "What a guy." We may never know if it was rape, but "we'll at least be rid of this creep."

5. It's never too late for a comeback

The saga will continue in France, says New York's Tartar, where "authorities are still investigating journalist Tristane Banon's sexual assault allegations against DSK." But plenty of people think Strauss-Kahn will still run for president. In one French poll, 57 percent said he "could still beat sitting president Nicolas Sarkozy."

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