When Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrives in court in Manhattan today for a hearing on the terms of his bail, it will probably not be under as dark a cloud of suspicion as has dogged him since his arrest on May 14 for allegedly trying to rape a maid in the Sofitel Hotel in Midtown. After today's round of headlines, he's more likely to be viewed objectively, at least, if not sympathetically. The New York Times reported that the case against him was "seen as near collapse," the New York Daily News has the "would-be victim caught in a web of lies," And the New York Post, in classic fashion, blared that the prosecution's case was getting "unmaid." All reported the same basic story: That the 32-year-old Guinean housekeeper who brought the charges against Struass-Kahn in the first place has been inconsistent in providing details of her own background, and was recorded allegedly conspiring with an incarcerated drug dealer to "cash in," as the Daily News puts it, on the charge against the then-director of the International Monetary Fund. None of the papers' sources, however, have gone so far as to say she lied about the alleged assault itself.
The Atlantic's Steve Clemons argued today that Strauss-Kahn wasn't given a fair shake in terms of the American justice principle that a suspect is presumed innocent until he or she is proven guilty.
Strauss-Kahn, who may be innocent, who even Sarkozy said should be presumed innocent unless evidence led to a different conclusion, now cannot return either to the IMF or to his position as the next likely President of France.
One of the fears that I often hear from people when talking about the growing power of social network sites, blogs, as well as micro-journalism and micro-comment platforms is the one of scandalmongering, or a tsunami of mistruths and reputational attacks that take down some high profile person.
[Strauss-Kahn's] legally-based presumed innocence has been inconsequential to the penalties that he's already received, and that's something that should worry us.
But by the same token, it's important not to immediately discount the accuser in this case. Of the four main points that The Times' sources say speak to her credibility, which Ray Gustini outlined here yesterday, only one directly relates to the case against Strauss-Kahn: "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." And that phone call happened after the alleged attack, which shows the accuser may have seen a potential profit in the situation, but it doesn't show any premeditated fraud. In addition, The Times notes, "forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a French politician, and the woman." Whether that encounter was forced, as the charges against Strauss-Kahn allege, or was perhaps consensual, as Strauss-Kahn's defense has suggested previously, is still, at this point, a matter for the court to decide. Strauss-Kahn's hearing is due to start at 11:30 a.m. today.