Her move came as prosecutors deliberated over whether to drop sex assault charges against Strauss-Kahn, or take the former head of the International Monetary Fund and powerful French figure to trial.
The 17-page court filing alleged a “violent and sadistic attack” in the Manhattan Sofitel room where Nafissatou Diallo went to clean Strauss-Kahn’s luxury room on May 14.
No specific amount of money was named in the suit, which referred only to “an award of damages in an amount to be determined at trial, plus prejudgment interest” and other unspecified compensation.
Filled with gruesome detail about how the French VIP allegedly forced his penis into the Guinean immigrant’s mouth, the suit also claimed that Strauss-Kahn had assaulted women in “hotel rooms around the world.”
The suit requested a jury trial in the Bronx, a tough neighborhood of New York where Diallo lives and where the local state court has a reputation for favoring victims in civil suits.
Responding to the suit, lawyers for Strauss-Kahn – who until the scandal had been tipped to become the next president of France – said Diallo and her lead lawyer Kenneth Thompson were simply after their client’s fortune.
“We have maintained from the beginning that the motivation of Mr Thompson and his client was to make money. The filing of this lawsuit ends any doubt on that question. The civil suit has no merit and Mr Strauss-Kahn will defend it vigorously,” attorneys William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman said.
The suit alleged “sexual assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress upon Ms Diallo, whom he sexually assaulted as she attempted to do her job as a housekeeper.”
Strauss-Kahn, the suit said, “intentionally, brutally and violently sexually assaulted Ms Diallo and in the process humiliated, degraded, violated and robbed Ms Diallo of her dignity as a woman.”
The ensuing emotional and mental distress was such that “she may never recover.”
A civil suit was always expected. Only the timing was in question and ordinarily a civil action is held back until the fate of the criminal case is clear.
Strauss-Kahn’s next scheduled court appearance in the criminal case is August 23. There has been speculation that prosecutors may drop their charges at that hearing.
The district attorney’s office has publicly called into question Diallo’s credibility amid revelations that she lied on her application form to gain asylum in the United States from her native Guinea.
But Thompson argues that his client risks being abandoned by prosecutors and that a jury trial in civil court is her only choice.
As part of a fight against negative reports about her credibility, Diallo took the unusual step of going public last month with media interviews and a press conference to present her side of the story. Alleged victims in sex crime cases rarely seek to reveal their identity, let alone mount media campaigns.
The burden of proof in a civil trial is significantly lower than the near watertight “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that has to be met in criminal courts. That could mean that even if Strauss-Kahn is let off by prosecutors, he will still face a bruising jury trial in the Bronx.
Alternatively, he could, through his lawyers, seek to pay Diallo in an out-of-court settlement.