As the dramatic saga that was the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal reached its anticlimactic conclusion, people were left without a sense of justice — or definite answers.
Prosecutors filed court papers Monday recommending the case be dismissed, with Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon saying, “Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that.”
On Tuesday, an appeals court judge rejected Nafissatou Diallo’s request for a special prosecutor, thereby bringing a conclusion to the case and dismissing the charges of attempted rape and a criminal sexual act.
The charges might be going away, but they are poised to have a lasting impact on those involved. As Clyde Haberman wrote in The New York Times:
Fairly or not, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s career has unraveled. Fairly or not, Ms. Diallo has been labeled a woman of dubious integrity; for all anyone knows, she may yet face deportation. … Fairly or not, the justice system itself has been criticized by an assortment of groups, including representatives of women’s advocacy organizations who protested Monday evening outside the Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan.
The end of the months-long ordeal does not necessarily mean that Strauss-Kahn is innocent; rather, the case fell apart because prosecutors began to doubt Diallo’s testimony as several inconsistencies came to light.
Even with these concerns about Diallo’s testimony, many are left dissatisfied with the charges being dropped instead of proceeding with a trial. Diallo might have lied in the past, but that doesn’t mean that she was not sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn. The main inconsistencies with her testimony involved her description of the encounter itself, whether or not she had been previously raped in her native Guinea, a controversial phone call, and a failure to disclose bank transactions. But many of these perceived inconsistencies could have been the result of poor translations rather than outright dishonesty: The damning phone call in which Diallo supposedly said, “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money” was incorrectly interpreted, and she actually did not bring up Strauss-Kahn’s wealth at all in the phone conversation. Even so, the original misquoted phone call was far more publicized than the retraction, so the damage to her reputation was done.
Additionally, the DA’s reasons for requesting that the charges be dropped are spurious. As William Saletan wrote in Slate, the DA’s office has made Diallo’s inconsistencies seem more egregious than they actually were: “Having exaggerated the case against Strauss-Kahn, prosecutors are now exaggerating the case against Diallo.”
No person is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to a fair trial. Whether or not Strauss-Kahn was falsely accused, his future political career has been ruined, and he will forever be stigmatized by the charges. Whether or not Diallo was sexually assaulted, she will not receive justice through a trial by jury. And whether or not the general public believes that the judge was correct in dismissing the charges, very few people are satisfied with the end result here.