A judge has dismissed the sexual assault case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn but put the order on hold for the accuser and her lawyer to ask that a special prosecutor should be appointed.
The decision to drop the charges in a case that has attracted global attention as a cauldron of sex, violence, power and politics had been widely expected after prosecutors filed court papers in New York a day before arguing that they could not trust the word of the hotel maid accusing the French diplomat of attempted rape.
Strauss-Kahn arrived at court in a six-car motorcade and was greeted by protesters wielding signs carrying such messages as "DSK treats women like property" and "Put the rapist on trial - not the victim." Even inside the courtroom, shouting could be heard.
He appeared resolute, wearing a dark grey suit, blue shirt and a navy-and-gold striped tie, smiling and shaking hands with an audience member and his wife, journalist Anne Sinclair, sitting nearby. They left court without speaking to reporters but read a statement shortly afterward.
"These past two and a half months have been a nightmare for me and my family," he said. "I want to thank all the friends in France and in the United States who have believed in my innocence, and to the thousands of people who sent us their support personally and in writing. I am most deeply grateful to my wife and family who have gone through this ordeal with me. ...
"We will have nothing further to say about this matter and we look forward to returning to our home and resuming something of a more normal life," he said.
During the brief appearance in Manhattan State Supreme Court, Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon formally recommended the case be dismissed.
"Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that," she said.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said he would not dismiss the case until an appeals decision, expected later, on whether a special prosecutor should be appointed. Shortly before the dismissal ruling, the judge had denied the request to appoint a special prosecutor, saying there was nothing that would disqualify Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance from heading the case.
The maid, 33-year-old, Nafissatou Diallo from the West African nation of Guinea, claimed that the one-time French presidential contender attacked her and sexually assaulted her when she arrived to clean his luxury suite on May 14. When prosecutors brought charges, they touted their evidence as strong but later noted that DNA evidence did not prove a forced encounter. Strauss-Kahn has denied the maid's allegations along.