Was Dominique Strauss-Kahn Set Up?

New head-scratching revelations in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.

It’s been more than six months former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was taken off a Paris-bound plane at JFK airport and arrested for allegedly raping a hotel maid, and just a few months since the charges against him were dropped after his accuser’s story began to fall apart due to her own lack of credibility. Now, investigative reporters Edward Jay Epstein is out with a report in The New York Review of Books that, to say the least, raises many questions about what the heck really happened that day in May, 2011 in the Presidential Suite at the Sofitel. The entire article is worth a read, but Linette Lopez does a good job of summarizing the major discrepancies that Epstein points out based on his review of police and hotel records

  1. DSK’s IMF Blackberry is still missing: Where was this in the news? Epstein points out that even before the Sofitel encounter, DSK had been warned that his IMF Blackberry (which he used for a mix of personal and professional communication) had been compromised. A friend told him that Sarkozy’s party was somehow in possession of an e-mail he sent to his wife, Ann Sinclair. He was about to have the phone examined for bugs in Paris. This is the Blackberry he lost after his encounter with Sofitel maid Naffest Diallo. She entered his room around 12:06 PM or 12:07 PM. She left around 12:13 PM. He then called his daughter Camille on his personal phone, met her for lunch, and shortly after he left McCormick and Schmicks where he was dining with Camille, he realized his IMF phone was gone.
  2. Diallo kept going back to the same hotel suite all day and we still don’t know who was staying in it: According to key card swipe records, Diallou visited room 2820 a few times on May 14, including while a guest could have still been there. She also went there immediately after leaving DSK’s suite. She did not tell the prosecution about this.
  3. The hotel’s security company has close ties to Sarkozy: A French company called Accor group owns the Sofitel hotel. And while Diallo was reporting DSK in NYC, their head of security, René-Georges Querry, was attending a soccer game with President Sarkozy. Back in NYC, John Sheehan the director of safety and security at Accor made a mysterious call to an unidentified 646 number while en route to the Sofitel to look into the Diallo issue. There’s more: Xavier Graff, the duty officer at the Accor Group in Paris, later sent an e-mail where he lauds “bringing down DSK” (he later said it was a joke), and on May 14th, a security guard and an unidentified man were seen giving each other high fives and celebrating around 1:28 PM. This is the same unidentified man who took Diallo to the security office when she reported being assaulted at 12:52 PM.

That last part of Epstein’s hypothesis seems to be a bit of a stretch to me. The general idea seems to be that Strauss-Kahn had already been made aware that at least one of his cell phones and his iPad may have been compromised by, well, someone and was apparently intending to have both devices tested by a computer security firm once he returned to Paris. As Epstein relates it, DSK had been told that morning by a woman who had been a researcher at the headquarters of Nicolas Sarkozy’s political party that an email that DSK had sent to his wife had been read and passed around at party headquarters recently, suggesting that either the phone or his iPad might be compromised. From there, he goes to the alleged links between Sarkozy and the corporate owner of the hotel and then, he relates this:

By the time Sheehan was called by the hotel at 1:03 PM, Diallo was seated on a bench in the hotel’s ground floor service area, just off the service entrance on 45th Street. Behind her was a “Dutch door,” with the upper half opened, that led to the hotel’s security office. Surveillance camera footage shows her entering the area with a tall unidentified man at 12:52 PM. She remains there until 2:05 PM. At 12:56, she is joined there by Brian Yearwood, the large, heavy-set man who is the hotel’s chief engineer. Yearwood had just come down from the presidential suite on the twenty-eighth floor, which he had entered at 12:51, according to the key records. Yearwood remained close to Diallo as she spoke to Adrian Branch, the security chief for the hotel, who remained behind the half-shut door of the security office. She can be seen gesturing with her hands for about four minutes, pointing to different parts of her body over and over again, suggesting she was telling and retelling her story.

At 1:28, Sheehan, still on the way to the hotel, sent a text message to Yearwood. And then another text message to an unidentified recipient at 1:30. At 1:31—one hour after Diallo had first told a supervisor that she had been assaulted by the client in the presidential suite—Adrian Branch placed a 911 call to the police. Less than two minutes later, the footage from the two surveillance cameras shows Yearwood and an unidentified man walking from the security office to an adjacent area. This is the same unidentified man who had accompanied Diallo to the security office at 12:52 PM. There, the two men high-five each other, clap their hands, and do what looks like an extraordinary dance of celebration that lasts for three minutes. They are then shown standing by the service door leading to 45th Street—apparently waiting for the police to arrive—where they are joined at 2:04 PM by Florian Schutz, the hotel manager.

All of this is, apparently, on hotel security video. It is, to say the least, odd behavior to see a hotel employee(s) high-fiving and seemingly celebrating given what was happening that day. Of course, the “celebration” could have been something else. It could be they were happy with the outcome of the previous night’s Yankees or Mets game, or the NBA playoffs that were going on at the time. Epstein would want us to draw the conclusion, obviously, that the men were involved somehow in a set up against DSK and that they were celebrating how well the plan had gone off so far. But even that doesn’t necessarily make sense. Even if there was a conspiracy, it still wasn’t clear that the NYPD would be convinced enough to pursue the case, or that they’d be able to get to DSK before he left the country. Engaging in that kind of activity, in full view of cameras and the public, doesn’t even make sense in the context of a conspiracy against DSK.

Nonetheless, Epstein does raise a lot of interesting questions. The question of what ever happened to DSK’s Blackberry is an interesting one, for example. It certainly wasn’t left behind in his hotel room because it would’ve been found in the police search. DSK’s daughter wasn’t able to find it when she went back to the restaurant she had just dined at with her father to look for it at his request. Records apparently indicate that the phone’s locator circuitry was disabled sometime around 12:51pm 0n the day of this incident, but that’s only part of the mystery:

While DSK believed he had left it in the Sofitel, the records obtained from BlackBerry show that the missing phone’s GPS circuitry was disabled at 12:51. This stopped the phone from sending out signals identifying its location. Apart from the possibility of an accident, for a phone to be disabled in this way, according to a forensic expert, required technical knowledge about how the BlackBerry worked.

From electronic information that became available to investigators in November 2011, it appears the phone never left the Sofitel. If it was innocently lost, whoever found it never used it, raising the question of by whom and why it was disabled at 12:51. In any case, its absence made it impossible for DSK to check—as he had planned to do—to see if it had been compromised. Nor was it possible to verify from the phone itself the report he received on May 14 that his messages were being intercepted. So we cannot confirm the warning to DSK that he was under surveillance on that disastrous day.

And then there’s Room 2820, just down the hall from the Presidential Suite. As noted above, the maid apparently entered and exited that room several times before going to the suite, and then again after the alleged incident. The hotel was aware of this but neither they nor the maid told this to the police when they arrived, meaning that the room was not declared part of the crime scene and was never searched and processed. The hotel still won’t say if anyone was staying in that room at the time, or who they were if there was.  All of this would seem to be relevant information.

The only thing we know for sure is that there was some kind of sexual encounter in the Presidential Suite of the Sofitel on May 14, 2011. It didn’t last very long, but it did happen, the forensic evidence confirms it and Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have never denied that there was a sexual encounter. The question is whether there was consent or force. As far as the Manhattan District Attorney was concerned, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove force beyond a reasonable doubt. and these new revelations just put the maid’s story further into doubt. There is a civil suit pending, though, and DSK’s lawyers will have the authority at some point to subpoena records from the hotel that could cast further light on some of what Epstein reports here. That could be interesting, to say the least.

I don’t think any of us know what the real story is. I tend not to buy into conspiracy theories for the simple reason that there’s usually a much simpler explanation,  but after reading Epstein’s report, the whole thing just seems really dammed odd now.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    Well, hey, at least we got a perp walk out of it! Those are always so much fun.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I don’t think any of us know what the real story is. I tend not to buy into conspiracy theories for the simple reason that there’s usually a much simpler explanation, but after reading Epstein’s report, the whole thing just seems really dammed odd now.

    I read about this the other day and I’m not buying it either… Yet. What I found interesting was that Epstein was able to get a hold of the records of her and others card key usage (were they the real records? Or fakes?) but can not find out who was in 2820. Somebody seems to be feeding him information, not enough to actually tell what really happened, just enough to make people wonder.

    And doubt her even more.

  3. @OzarkHillbilly:

    It would appear that much of the information Epstein obtained came from records obtained by the Prosecutors during the investigation, which would have been turned over to the defense at some point.

  4. ponce says:

    It’s hard to tell what Epstein is implying the maid’s role in this was.

    A super secret French agent?

    An innocent victim used by the French?

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Went back and reread the article. Found it. I still don’t understand why the prosecuters didn’t ask who was in 2820?

    Also, I loved this part:

    Investigations by both the police and private investigators retained by DSK’s lawyers failed to find it. While DSK believed he had left it in the Sofitel, the records obtained from BlackBerry show that the missing phone’s GPS circuitry was disabled at 12:51. This stopped the phone from sending out signals identifying its location. Apart from the possibility of an accident, for a phone to be disabled in this way, according to a forensic expert, required technical knowledge about how the BlackBerry worked.

    Yes, a foot stomp would render it useless, or maybe just rolling over it with a food cart?

    Also:

    From electronic information that became available to investigators in November 2011, it appears the phone never left the Sofitel. If it was innocently lost, whoever found it never used it, raising the question of by whom and why it was disabled at 12:51.

    Now wait a minute. You just said the GPS was disabled at 12:51, that means you don’t know where it is.

    The article is full of supposition.

  6. Eric Florack says:

    so, lets see here. a white french leftist gets accused by women of questionable creds.
    a black conservative gets similarly accused. the reax to each are to say the least unequal.

  7. Montanareddog says:

    Apart from the possibility of an accident, for a phone to be disabled in this way, according to a forensic expert, required technical knowledge about how the BlackBerry worked.

    Do BlackBerrys have a Flight mode? Because surely that would do it, as would removing the Sim Card, as would switching it off would have thought! So saying it was disabled by someone with technical skill is a bit of an assumption

  8. Montanareddog says:

    @Eric Florack: In what way are the reactions different? Are you trying to imply that the Leftist got off lightly? In which case, you may like to note that he lost his job, his reputation and suffered the indignity of the perp walk etc. though he has never been convicted of the crime of which he was accused.

    The rightist, on the other hand, is still in the race to be selected as the Republican party’s candidate to be President of the United States.

    Those are facts; as to my opinion, I think it is not unreasonable to suspect that they are both sleazebags regardless of political affiliation.