She came to this country from Guinea, West Africa, seven years ago and is a single parent raising her 15-year old daughter.
By DAVID B. CARUSO,
Associated Press Story
NEW YORK – IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was placed under a suicide watch in jail, while pressure mounted on him to resign Tuesday and the hotel maid who accused him of attempted rape said through her lawyer that she had no idea who he was when she reported him to the police.
Law enforcement officials emphasized that Strauss-Kahn had not tried to harm himself but that guards were keeping a close watch on him just in case.
Meanwhile, details began to emerge about his accuser, a 32-year-old immigrant from the West African nation of Guinea with a 15-year-old daughter.
“There is no way in which there is any aspect of this event which could be construed consensual in any manner. This is nothing other than a physical, sexual assault by this man on this young woman,” her attorney, Jeffrey Shapiro, told The Associated Press. He added: “She did not know who this man was until a day or two after this took place.”
Strauss-Kahn, the 62-year-old managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested Saturday and is being held without bail at the city’s Rikers Island jail, kept apart from his fellow prisoners in a unit that normally houses inmates with contagious diseases.
Police and prosecutors said he ambushed a housekeeper who had come to clean his $3,000-per-night at a New York hotel. Lawyers for the influential banker have challenged that account, saying the evidence doesn’t support accusations of forcible sex.
They wouldn’t elaborate, but the assertion gave rise to speculation that they might argue it was consensual sex. At the same time, some of Strauss-Kahn’s supporters in France, where he was considered a possible challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy, have suggested he may be the victim of a setup.
The woman’s lawyer, Shapiro, said there was no truth to suggestions that she had fabricated her account, describing her as an honest woman with “no agenda.”
“Her life has now been turned upside down. She can’t go home. She can’t go back to work. She has no idea what her future will be, what she will be able to do to support herself and her daughter. This has been nothing short of a cataclysmic event in her life,” Shapiro said. He said she “feels alone in the world.”
The woman, he said, came to the U.S. seven years ago under “very difficult circumstances” and is raising her daughter by herself now that the girl’s father is dead. The family was granted asylum in the U.S., and she is a legal resident. She has worked at the hotel for three years, according to Shapiro.
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent.
Strauss-Kahn’s arrest continued to produce calls for his resignation from the IMF, which provides emergency loans to stabilize countries in economic distress and is now grappling with the debt crisis in Europe.
Austria’s finance minister, Maria Fekter, said: “Considering the situation, that bail was denied, he has to figure out for himself that he is hurting the institution.”
Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn’s past conduct with other women is getting new scrutiny.
The banker was investigated internally by the IMF following a 2008 affair with an employee, the Hungarian-born economist Piroska Nagy. The institution eventually absolved him of wrongdoing, but on Tuesday a person close to Nagy said she had sent the organization a letter at the time warning about his behavior toward women.
The letter voiced “doubts about Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s suitability for running an international institution,” according to the person, who declined to be identified, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
The New York Times published an excerpt of the letter, along with an account that said Strauss-Kahn had aggressively pursued Nagy, sent her sexually explicit messages and once had her summoned from the bathroom to speak to him.
Strauss-Kahn himself appeared to realize that his relationships with women could be a political problem. The French daily newspaper Liberation reported this week that at a meeting with Strauss-Kahn in April, he speculated that his presidential campaign might be subjected to low blows over “money, women and my Jewishness.”
“Yes, I love women … so what?” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Strauss-Kahn also theorized that his enemies might try to pay someone to accuse him of rape, according to the newspaper.
Strauss-Kahn’s American lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said Monday that he believes that once all of the physical evidence is in, his client will be exonerated.
All prisoners arriving at Rikers Island are given a mental health assessment to determine whether they pose a suicide risk. Norman Seabrook, president of the guards union, said Strauss-Kahn did or said something during that evaluation that made doctors concerned, and he is being monitored day and night.
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of prisoner medical information, said Strauss-Kahn had not tried to harm himself.
Because of his stature, Strauss-Kahn has been assigned to a section of the Rikers Island jail that normally houses prisoners with highly contagious diseases, like measles or tuberculosis. Corrections spokesman Stephen Morello said Strauss-Kahn has been placed in a wing with about 14 cells, all of them empty except for his.
The cell has a toilet and a sink. He takes his meals there, with breakfast at 5 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.
Morello said Strauss-Kahn is free to leave his cell from time to time and wander the wing, and can leave the building for an hour each day for recreation outdoors, if he wants. Because he is awaiting trial, Strauss-Kahn isn’t required to wear a prison uniform. He may bring his own clothing and wear what he chooses, except for his shoes. All prisoners are required to wear prison-issue slip-on sneakers.
Also, he must change out of his street clothes and put on a gray jumpsuit when he wishes to see visitors. The suits are designed without pockets or other hiding places where a person could stash contraband.
Strauss-Kahn is charged with attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The most serious charge carries five to 25 years in prison.
Associated Press writers Raphael G. Satter in London and Jennifer Peltz and David B. Caruso in New York contributed to this report.