If Not Guilty, Still Not Innocent

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF head and potential Socialist candidate for the French presidency who has been under house arrest for the last month due to charges of forcibly raping a hotel maid while staying at a ritzy hotel in New York, is now out on bail and word is that the prosecution case is “crumbling”. While physical evidence gathered in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel suite and from the maid herself shows unambiguously that an encounter between him and the maid occurred (Strauss-Kahn’s defense no longer denies this, but insists it was not forced), law enforcement officials have found that she lied on her immigration application, she has a boyfriend in prison in Arizona for drug dealing, and her account of the order of events surrounding the incident has varied over time. None of this necessarily indicates that she wasn’t raped, but it does allow a crack defense team to raise a lot of reasonable doubt.

Some of his allies are taking this as an exoneration:

Martine Aubry, the Socialist Party leader, was quoted on the Web site of the magazine L’Express as feeling “immense joy” that the case seemed to be faltering. “Speaking as a friend of DSK, I hope the American justice system will establish all the truth and allow Dominique to get out of this nightmare,” she said, using the initials by which Mr. Strauss-Kahn is widely known here.

Here in the US, some on the opinion pages are tut tutting that this is a prime example of how we need to be careful not to rush to judgement when someone is publicly accused of a crime.

I’m sure someone will think this is an example of class envy and middle class morality, but I for one am not feeling all that sorry for what Strauss-Kahn has been put through. If a wealthy and powerful banker/politician is going to solicit low paid employees at their hotels for sexual favors, I don’t really have a problem with throwing him in Riker’s Island for a couple days and publicly humiliating him for a while if said hotel employee wants to claim that the encounter was less than voluntary. Rather than complaining that Strauss-Kahn has had shabby treatment by the world over the last month, it might do for Strauss-Kahn himself to consider treating those he meets less like objects for his own personal satisfaction. However much an ambitious DA may salivate at the chance of bringing down a well known figure, surely the New York prosecutors would not have moved so fast if there had not been ample and indisputable physical evidence that something took place, which the maid insisted was quite involuntary on her part. (And despite her increasing lack of credibility as a witness, she may well be telling the truth about this.)

If France’s Socialists are eager to get DSK back as their representative, it says a lot about how they really think about how the elites and the workers should interact.

13 Responses to If Not Guilty, Still Not Innocent

  • Joe Green says:

    It’s a he said/she said. No pity here for DSK but when an accuser loses credibility (see Tawana Brawley) then a reasonable doubt is raised. Or another possibility is an “out of court settlement” (see Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson). As Clarence Darrow famously said, “there is no justice in or our of court.”

  • DSK is a bounder and not a rapist apparently. I weep little for him. However, if it can be established that the maid fabricated the story of the rape, she should be prosecuted for it. Rape is one of the most serious criminal allegations imaginable, and people who do so falsely should not simply be left to go about their business.

  • Jonathan says:

    “her account of the order of events surrounding the incident has varied over time.”

    Yes, and in such a way as to cast serious doubts about her credibility, particularly having 1. Lied about being raped previously, 2. lied about the events surrounding DSK: if I remember, immediately reported a rape versus going and cleaning DSK’s room AND another room before discussing the matter with her supervisor.

    “If a wealthy and powerful banker/politician is going to solicit low paid employees at their hotels for sexual favors, I don’t really have a problem with throwing him in Riker’s Island for a couple days and publicly humiliating him for a while if said hotel employee wants to claim that the encounter was less than voluntary.”

    Could you have made this a bit more emotionally evocative? Perhaps “monstrously powerful, vampiric, blood-lusting, sexually charged capitalist bankers soliciting low-paid, poor, innocent, Christian, socially-disabled slaves”?

    As evidenced, I have very little sympathy for lines of reasoning that imply, somehow, that because one individual is powerful and another “low paid”, there is some sort of pity to be had for the less well-off, etc. Sin extends both ways – lust for power and money one way, lust for flesh and domination another.

    While I do not weep for DSK, I agree with DMc that if the maid is found to have perjured herself on her immigration process and found to have lied to prosecutors to make her own case stronger and elicit sympathy, then she should face some sort of legal action.

  • From the police reports at the time of DSK’s arrest, it’s apparently 100% clear that DSK had sex with the maid and that she showed physical signs of rough handling, the question is simply whether he solicited her and she said yes, or whether he solicited her, she said no, and he forced her.

    That said:

    - I agree that if the maid made a false accusation, she should be prosecuted for it.

    - I do, on the other hand, think that there is a significant abuse of power (not to mention hypocrisy) in someone with DSK’s wealth and power soliciting a hotel maid. Aside from the obvious sexual sin involved, it seems to me that that necessarily involves an attempt to abuse social class and power in order to use someone else in a way that would not be the case if DSK were soliciting someone of similar class and wealth.

    Of course, the sad thing is: It may very well be that DSK raped her, but that it will now be impossible to bring him to justice because the victim is someone with criminal connections and a tendency to lie when in a bad situation. In which case, I guess the moral for rich and powerful Socialist politicians is: make sure you rape someone marginal, not someone in your own class.

  • Art Deco says:

    Jonathan,

    I suppose she might have some sort of kink that renders fat old men irresistible, but I tend to doubt that. Either the man made use of his status to seduce her, promised her some sort of consideration, or forced her. The second is a class b misdemeanor in New York, the third is a class b felony, and the first is most unbecoming of a member of the elite and most unbecoming of an old man. The patriciate has certain responsibilities that do not adhere as strongly to the rest of the society and if the French chatterati cannot figure that out, to hell with them. The thing to do with members of the elite who abuse their positions is to strip them of those positions and send them packing to San Clemente, or at the very least to wherever B-list celebrities are to be found.

  • Foxfier says:

    It’s even more complicated– apparently she lied about some portion or all of the gang rape she got refugee status under because she was trying to save her 8 year old daughter from mutilation. The same mutilation she’d suffered. A friend apparently told her that gang rape was sure grounds to get asylum. (Anyone know if protecting your daughter from FGM was sufficient reason in ’04?)

    What she told her boyfriend over the phone, in their native language, about the DSK rape matches what she told police.

    Didn’t DSK originally claim there had been no contact? If that story has changed, then I really don’t see this changing the over-all balance. I’d also like to point out that DSK’s allies were trying to make this all go away before.

  • Jonathan says:

    “I do, on the other hand, think that there is a significant abuse of power (not to mention hypocrisy) in someone with DSK’s wealth and power soliciting a hotel maid.”

    And this is what I am not sure about – a significant abuse of what power? DSK was not her employer, her father, her guardian, her….etc. I am lower middle class (if not lower) myself in terms of wealth, power, etc. and cannot believe that there would be some sort of abuse of power if I were solicited by, say, Hillary Clinton.

    “Either the man made use of his status to seduce her, promised her some sort of consideration, or forced her.”

    Or perhaps what Phillip’s link reports about the maid is true, and she offered some sort of consideration. If that is the case, then they are both liable for some sort of criminal charge.

    As I indicated above, I am very weary of analyses of any situation involving materialism in any of its forms. DSK may be guilty (his original story may be no contact, and now he has changed it to no rape) and the maid may not be guilty (her original story claims rape, and still does, but now varies at points). At this point, I am not given to favor one over the other for any reason. There is evidence of a sexual relationship, but so what? Search the internet – I am sure there are more than a few believable stories of hotel maids and clientele engaging in sexual relationships, especially with prostitution potentially involved.

    Prudently, as a prosecutor, I would be reluctant to bring a case where the proof was so problematic and spend the taxpayers money (see the Duke case) to produce a losing verdict. With that said, the maid is now so famous that SOME lawyer will take on a civil case for her against DSK (see the OJ Simpson case) and have a good chance at winning or settling. A “not guilty” in a criminal case would almost certainly affect a civil case negatively. It may be that the prosecutors are avoiding a prosecution with that in mind as well.

  • Ivan says:

    The woman is apparently a prostiute, in which DSK’s story of consensual sex stands. Her story was always weak in particular since the sex act she accused DSK of, if forced, could have cost him his member. And how many chambermaids from Africa, have lawyer friends named Shapiro?

  • Phillip & Ivan,

    I haven’t seen any of the reputable newspapers pick up that claim yet, but if so, it makes for a simple and satisfactory solution: Deport (or jail) the maid and throw the book at DSK for hiring a prostitute.

    Both should me made an example of in such a situation, because if that’s what turns out to have happened I imagine hotel maids will find themselves being harassed even more than they are now as pervs around the country congratulate themselves that “this one may be a hooker who thinks I’m a VIP.”

    Jonathan,

    Well, it strikes me that there is a significant power relationship between a high value customer and a low pay employee. Someone like DSK is worth several thousand dollars per night to a ritzy hotel, while there are probably a pretty constant supply of people eager to clean rooms at the going rate. During the time when I was working service and retail for less than $10/hour (though admittedly never in hotel cleaning, so one could assume some industry difference) people did tend to become pretty paranoid about what would happen if some customer made a complain about them — even if the complaint was totally false. This plus employees do typically absorb a lot of abuse from customers without responding (being shouted at, sworn at, treated unreasonably, etc.) I think it’s at least arguable that a low paid hotel worker would feel at a disadvantage in responding to the advances of a wealthy customer. (And indeed, there were a number of articles that came out at the time that the accusations first surfaced against DSK from long time hotel workers talking about how its not unusual for maids to be flashed or grabbed by hotel guests — and management not wanting to press any charges against the patrons for fear of losing business.

    More generally, though, I would argue that social class does exist in America — people who are clearly far, far wealthier do have a level of implicit advantage and power in comparison to those who don’t. As such, I think it’s particularly offensive when those in the upper classes use their positions to try to take advantage of those who are less fortunate. (Where I differ from leftists on this is that I don’t think that hiring someone for their market wage is “taking advantage” of them, I think it’s giving them a job. However, while not everyone’s work is worth the same, everyone’s person is worth the same, and thus someone using their position to treat someone as an object for gratification is something which I would place as more offensive than if the same act had occurred between “equals”.)

    I am lower middle class (if not lower) myself in terms of wealth, power, etc. and cannot believe that there would be some sort of abuse of power if I were solicited by, say, Hillary Clinton.

    All other things aside (education, background, etc.) the biggest difference here is that men and women are not equals when it comes to sex. I would tend to agree that Hillary Clinton soliciting a male waiter would not be the same abuse of power as Bill Clinton soliciting a maid — but that’s because with a man of a higher class soliciting a woman of a lower one, the class and sex power relationships are both cutting against the woman, with a upper class woman soliciting a lower class man, the two are cutting in different directions and in some sense cancel each other out.

    Though, it’s certainly possible for a woman to attempt to abuse sex as a means of power in relation to a man — e.g. Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.

  • Foxfier says:

    Can we please keep in mind that a lot of this is still rumor– oh, sorry, “from anonymous sources.” So rumors that someone wanted spread enough that they don’t care if folks know they’re planted, and juicy enough that the media will scramble to publish everything for fear of being left behind.

    Rumor that just happens to favor a guy who has a lot of money and a lot of powerful friends? All right at once? That smells like either piling on or planted information.

    For how she’d know the lawyer– maybe someone looked at his web site. Or maybe he contacted her, going off of the link to his TV appearances.

  • Art Deco says:

    Jonathan,

    Women take advantage of men in all kinds of ways and circumstances, but not in this particular way and these particular circumstances.

    I think men are seldom if ever attracted to status per se and find the idea of being kept repulsive. Also, Bess Meyerson aside, women past a certain age have little traction with men of any age. Women are very much attracted to status, most particularly when they themselves are of an age to be earning a living. Elizabeth Taylor’s interest in Larry Fortensky was most peculiar. If Hillary Clinton seduces someone, it will almost certain be a contemporary or someone notably older, and most certainly someone accomplished.

    Deport (or jail) the maid and throw the book at DSK for hiring a prostitute.

    The maximum sentence in New York would be 90 days in jail. I would guess that johns nearly always receive probation and/or a fine, if not some lesser penalty.

    Again, if you are on top, you are kind to and appreciative of the help. That’s class. It is simply part of the vocation of the patriciate.

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