Strauss-Kahn Case Adds to Doubts on Prosecutor
By ALAN FEUER, JOHN ELIGON and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
July 2, 2011
Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, seemed preoccupied when he sat down with two reporters last Monday. He already knew what the world wouldhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif soon learn: his marquee prosecution, the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was falling apart. Privately, his aides had told him they had discovered grave problems with the accuser’s credibility.
As the interview began, but before Mr. Vance was asked a question, he offered an unsolicited defense — not just of the Strauss-Kahn case, but of his overall stewardship. “Ultimately,” he said, “the success of a D.A.’s office, and of a D.A., is measured not in individual cases, but over time.”
“The cases you don’t read about,” he added, “define what the job of a D.A. really is.”
But that job has grown increasingly tumultuous. Since Mr. Vance took over 18 months ago, morale in some parts of the office has begun to sag, in part because of his firing of some prosecutors. Relations with one of the office’s key partners, the Police Department, have grown tense at times, with the agencies competing over many issues, including control of anticrime initiatives, officials on both sides say.
Mr. Vance’s predecessor, Robert M. Morgenthau, who became the pre-eminent district attorney in the country while holding the post for 35 years, was once a close ally of Mr. Vance’s, providing crucial support for his election in 2009. Mr. Vance worked for Mr. Morgenthau in the 1980s.
Now, Mr. Morgenthau, 91, rarely speaks to Mr. Vance.
Mr. Morgenthau has apparently become displeased with Mr. Vance’s management style and his revamping of the staff that Mr. Morgenthau put together, according to people who know both men well.
Mr. Vance’s supporters attribute the criticism of his tenure to people who are unsettled by his efforts to reinvigorate and modernize an office that his supporters say had stagnated under Mr. Morgenthau. They pointed out that only after Mr. Vance became district attorney were prosecutors given smartphones.
Still, the second-guessing of Mr. Vance’s leadership has intensified in the wake of a string of courtroom losses that culminated in the startling events last week, when prosecutors revealed their concerns about the honesty of the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault in May.
Even a member of the finance committee for Mr. Vance’s 2009 campaign, Gerald L. Shargel, a Manhattan defense lawyer, questioned how the case had been handled.
“What’s most curious is hearing the line prosecutors saying early on that they had a strong case, a very strong case,” Mr. Shargel said. “Obviously, they hadn’t looked very hard. I have enormous respect for Cy as a prosecutor, but this is like a series of bad dreams.”
A judge in Manhattan freed Mr. Strauss-Kahn from house arrest on Friday, and the case against him appeared to be collapsing.
In the weeks before that, Mr. Vance’s office failed to win rape convictions against two New York police officers accused of sexually assaulting a drunken woman (the officers were found guilty of lesser charges). And the most significant terrorism charges were dropped against two men accused of planning attacks against synagogues in the city, though serious counts remain.
Some of the most pointed complaints about Mr. Vance are emanating from the district attorney’s office itself, according to numerous interviews with prosecutors and other officials. They spoke on the condition that their names not be used, saying they feared reprisals.
Several said they worried that cases were often pursued with an excessive focus on whether they would generate publicity. Some said Mr. Vance had taken away the discretion of midlevel prosecutors, sometimes to the detriment of cases.
Those two issues, some prosecutors said, contributed to the difficulties in the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund who had been considered a leading contender for the French presidency.
After Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, the district attorney’s office faced the question of whether to ask a judge to keep him in custody.
To do so, the office had to obtain an indictment within five days. The alternative was to agree to a bail package so that prosecutors could take their time investigating the case before deciding whether to indict, according to four people briefed on the matter.
In the end, Mr. Vance chose a quick indictment, drawing criticism that he had moved before he knew of the accuser’s background.
Prosecutors have said in court that they decided to seek the indictment and to keep Mr. Strauss-Kahn in custody to avoid the possibility of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s fleeing the country.
The case also unfolded as a rift had already developed between Mr. Vance and the chief of the office’s sex crimes unit, Lisa Friel. She stepped down last week under circumstances that were not entirely clear. It did not appear that her decision was directly related to the Strauss-Kahn case.
Early on, Mr. Vance took the case away from the sex crimes unit and gave it to two other experienced assistant district attorneys...
Strauss-Kahn Is Released as Case Teeters
By JOHN ELIGON
New York Times
July 1, 2011
Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on Friday as the sexual assault case against him moved one step closer to dismissal after prosecutors told a Manhattan judge that they had serious problems with the case.
Prosecutors acknowledged that there were significant credibility issues with the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in May. In a brief hearing at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, prosecutors did not oppose his release; the judge then freed Mr. Strhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifauss-Kahn on his own recognizance.
The development represented a stunning reversal in a case that reshaped the French political landscape and sparked debate about morals, the treatment of women and the American justice system. The case could also alter the political fortunes of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, who is just a year and a half into his tenure and was facing his most highly publicized case to date.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, was considered a strong contender for the French presidency before being accused of sexually assaulting the housekeeper who went to clean his luxury suite at the Sofitel New York. After his arrest, Mr. Strauss-Kahn resigned his position as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
From Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s first court appearance on May 16, Mr. Vance’s office expressed extreme confidence in its case. At that hearing, an assistant district attorney said that “the victim provided very powerful details consistent with violent sexual assault committed by the defendant.”
At another court appearance three days later, prosecutors said the victim “offered a compelling and unwavering story” and that the proof against Mr. Strauss-Kahn was “continuing to grow every day.”
Those accounts varied greatly from what prosecutors revealed on Friday, acknowledging publicly for the first time that the case was not as strong as they initially suggested. In a letter sent to Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers and filed with Justice Michael J. Obus on Friday, prosecutors outlined some of what they had discovered about Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser.
Prosecutors disclosed that the woman had admitted lying in her application for asylum from Guinea; according to the letter, she “fabricated the statement with the assistance of a male who provided her with a cassette recording” that she memorized. She also admitted that her claim that she had been the victim of a gang rape in Guinea was also a lie.
The woman also admitted to the prosecutors that she had misrepresented her income to qualify for her housing, and had declared a friend’s child — in addition to her own daughter — as a dependent on tax returns to increase her tax refund.
Questions are sure to be raised about how swiftly and vigorously prosecutors proceeded with the case, as many in France questioned whether there was a rush to judgment with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.
While prosecutors have not yet dismissed the case, Mr. Strauss-Kahn will now be able to move about the country more freely; although prosecutors will retain his passport, most of his restrictive bail conditions have been lifted. Under those conditions, he was required to stay in a Lower Manhattan town house under armed guard and wearing an ankle monitor. He could only leave for certain reasons and had to notify prosecutors when he left.
Although forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Mr. Strauss-Kahn and the woman, prosecutors now do not believe much of what the accuser has told them about the circumstances or about herself.
Since her initial allegation on May 14, the accuser has repeatedly lied, one of the law enforcement officials said.
According to the two officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.
That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.
The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends...
Matt Flegenheimer and Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.