Before You Judge, Stand in Her Shoes

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mike Mcgovern

New Haven–REVELATIONS about the hotel housekeeper who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault suggest that she embellished claims of abuse to receive asylum, fudged her tax returns, had ties to people with criminal backgrounds, had unexplained deposits in her bank account and changed the account of the encounter she gave investigators. Yet those who would rush to judge her should consider the context.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser is from Guinea, also the home country of Amadou Diallo, the street peddler who was shot to death in the doorway of his Bronx apartment building by four New York City police officers in 1999. Guineans leave their country in large numbers, partly because of grinding poverty; 70 percent live on less than $1.25 a day , despite the fact that Guinea has almost half of the world’s bauxite (from which aluminum is made), as well as iron, gold, uranium, diamonds and offshore oil.

The same leaders whose theft and mismanagement have kept so many Guineans poor in the decades since independence from France, in 1958, have also been ferociously violent, massacring as many as 186 unarmed demonstrators calling for democratic reforms in 2007, and at least 157 demanding the same in 2009. After the latter massacre, members of the state security forces gang-raped dozens of women to punish them for protesting and to terrorize men and women into silence.

While the American government condemned the massacres, the bauxite kept shipping, supplying Americans with aluminum cookware and automobile parts. That’s no surprise; the biggest mining companies doing business in Guinea are based in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia.

People fleeing state-sponsored violence and extreme poverty will do anything to leave. I receive requests every few weeks to write expert-witness affidavits for West African asylum claimants. As a personal matter of conscience, I will not write in support of an applicant whose testimony I believe contains inconsistencies.

Yet asylum claimants are often asked to perform an impossible task.

They must prove they have been subject to the most crushing forms of oppression and violence — for this, bodies bearing the scars of past torture are a boon — while demonstrating their potential to become hard-working and well-adjusted citizens.

This is where the lies and embellishments creep into some asylum seekers’ narratives. Immigrants share tips and hunches about ways to outwit the system, even as immigration judges try to discover the claimants’ latest ruses. But I can say from experience that for every undeserving claimant who receives asylum, several deserving ones are turned down. So few Africans gain access to green cards through legal channels that the United States government grants about 25,000 spots annually to Africans selected at random through the diversity visa lottery.

Just as Mr. Diallo’s death resonated because it made the tribulations of many West African immigrants public, the case of Mr. Strauss-Kahn and his accuser has the aura of a parable. Many Africans feel the International Monetary Fund, which Mr. Strauss-Kahn led, and the World Bank have been more committed to the free flow of money and commodities like bauxite than to the free flow of people and the fulfillment of their aspirations.

Guinean press accounts, and recent conversations I’ve had with Guineans, suggest that they disapprove of the deceptions by Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser. But given the poverty and systemic violence in their country, they understand the circumstances in which such deception could occur — and we should, too.

As the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn seemingly disintegrates, he is enjoying a political renaissance at home, yet I keep asking myself: does a sexual encounter between a powerful and wealthy French politician and a West African hotel cleaning woman from a dollar-a-day background not in itself suggest a gross abuse of power?

Mike McGovern, an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale and the author of “Making War in Côte d’Ivoire,” is writing a book on Guinea.

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Timeline of Events in Strauss-Kahn Case

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in a prison in New York on charges that he attempted to rape a maid at a New York hotel on Saturday.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have denied the charges.

The scandal has appeared to wreck his hopes of running for president of France and has prompted calls for new leadership of the IMF which oversees the world economy.

Here is a timeline of events:

FRIDAY AFTERNOON – Strauss-Kahn checked into a $3,000 a night suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan, which a law enforcement source said he was paying a discounted rate of $800.
The suite has a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom. The 30-storey hotel has an Art Deco restaurant and bar called Gaby, which the website (www.sofitel.com) says serves “French flair in a glamorous setting.’’

The hotel is near Times Square, Broadway theaters, Fifth Avenue shopping and Central Park.

SATURDAY ABOUT 12:00 P.M. EDT (1600 GMT) – A 32-year-old maid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite, room 2806, which she apparently thought was unoccupied.

Following routine procedure, the maid announced herself when she entered the suite, and left the front door to the suite unlocked and ajar, a law enforcement said. She entered the living room and saw nobody. Then she opened the door to the bedroom, where she saw Strauss Kahn, naked. She apologized and said she would come back later, and started to leave the room.

Strauss-Kahn allegedly ran after the maid and, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors, shut the door of his hotel room, preventing her from leaving. He grabbed the victim’s chest without consent, attempted to remove her pantyhose, and forcibly grabbed the victim’s vaginal area. His penis made contact with the victim’s mouth twice through the use of force, prosecutors said.
The woman fled and reported the incident to her supervisor who called police. Strauss-Kahn left the hotel, leaving behind his mobile phone.

An ambulance was called to the hotel and the woman was taken to a hospital where she was treated and released.

SATURDAY, 12.28 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn checked out of the Sofitel hotel, according to court papers filed by his lawyers with the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday.

SATURDAY, 12.45 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn “proceeded to a previously scheduled lunch a few blocks away’’ from the Sofitel hotel, according to the court papers.

SATURDAY, about 1:30 P.M. – Security staff at the Sofitel called police to report the alleged sexual assault, a law enforcement source told Reuters. The first police units arrived at the hotel at 1:45 pm, the source said.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – “Strauss-Kahn was driven to John F. Kennedy International Airport to catch an Air France flight to Paris, which was scheduled to depart at 4:40 p.m. A seat for Mr. Strauss-Kahn had been reserved on that particular flight approximately one week in advance,’’ court papers filed by defense lawyers said.

SATURDAY, about 3.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn called the hotel to ask about his missing mobile phone.

Police were still at the hotel and asked the staff member speaking to Strauss-Kahn to tell him an urgent effort would be made to return the phone. Strauss-Kahn told the hotel staff member to bring the phone to him at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn boarded Air France flight 23 for Paris at New York’s JFK airport and was seated in the first class section. He had been due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Europe on Sunday and attend meetings on the region’s debt crisis on Monday.

SATURDAY about 4:40 P.M. – Police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the bridges, tunnels and airports in the area, boarded the flight minutes before it was due to depart and detained Strauss-Kahn. He was not handcuffed.

The Port Authority police turned him over to New York Police Department detectives from the Midtown South Precinct, which covers the area of Manhattan where the Sofitel hotel is located. They handcuffed him.

Strauss-Kahn made no statements and requested a lawyer. He was taken to the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit in the Harlem neighborhood, where he was kept in a room reserved for questioning. He made no statements and declined any food. The Special Victims Unit investigates sex crimes.

SATURDAY NIGHT/SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – The consul general of France met with Strauss-Kahn under the regular rules of consular protection for all French citizens detained abroad, said Marie-Laure Charrier, a spokeswoman for the French consulate in New York.

SUNDAY 1:15 A.M. – Brafman told Reuters in an email that the IMF chief would plead not guilty.

Brafman is a high-profile criminal lawyer who was part of Michael Jackson’s legal team that successfully defended the pop singer against child molestation charges in 2005. Brafman also won an acquittal on weapons and bribery charges for rap mogul Sean “P. Diddy’’ Combs.

SUNDAY 2:15 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Strauss-Kahn spent the night at the Special Victims Unit, which is on the second floor of a red brick and concrete building, sleeping in a chair with his feet propped up in another chair.

SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a breakfast of home fries, scrambled eggs and toast brought in from an outside diner, a law enforcement said.

SUNDAY 11 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, said in a statement: “I do not believe for a single second the accusations leveled against my husband … I do not doubt his innocence will be established.’’

SUNDAY 1 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Brafman and William Taylor, arrived and spent half an hour with their client. Brafman again said Strauss-Kahn would plead not guilty.

SUNDAY 2 P.M. – Sofitel New York manager Jorge Tito said in a statement sent by property owner Accor in Paris that the maid who made the allegations had worked for the hotel for three years and was “completely satisfactory in terms of her work and behavior.’’

SUNDAY 3.30 P.M. – Brafman and Taylor arrived and spent 45 minutes with Strauss-Kahn.

SUNDAY 3.50 P.M. – The maid arrived at the Special Victims Unit in a van and shielded by police with a white sheet from photographers. She spent 40 minutes there. She identified Strauss-Kahn in a lineup, a NYPD spokesman said. “It was a standard lineup — six people,’’ he said.

SUNDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard and drinks a bottle of water, a law enforcement source said.

SUNDAY 10.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers told reporters on the steps of Manhattan Criminal Court that his court appearance had been postponed so he could undergo a “scientific and forensic’’ examination that had been requested by investigators. Taylor said Strauss-Kahn was “tired but fine.’’

SUNDAY 11 P.M. – A handcuffed Strauss-Kahn, wearing black pants, a blue dress shirt and a black overcoat, was escorted from the Special Victims Unit by detectives. He was taken to Kings County Hospital in the New York City borough of Brooklyn where he was examined by forensic technicians who specialize in investigating sexual assault cases.

MONDAY about 3.30 A.M – Strauss-Kahn’s mug shot was taken at the Manhattan Criminal Court building detention center, best known as “The Tombs,’’ where he spent the night. The photo showed him looking haggard, his eyes downcast and his shirt collar open.

MONDAY 10.50 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn entered Manhattan Criminal Court for his hearing. Before his appearance, other defendants appeared before the judge in the media-packed courtroom on charges including drug possession, criminal trespassing and delinquency.

Strauss-Kahn appeared to be dressed in the same clothes he was wearing on Sunday and looked tired and grim.

MONDAY 12 P.M – Strauss-Kahn was denied bail. He is due to reappear in court on May 20.

MONDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn was transferred to Rikers Island jail and held in protective custody in an 11 foot by 13 foot cell, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction said.

TUESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – At Strauss-Kahn’s request, the French consul general visited him at Rikers Island jail, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – The French consul general again visited Strauss-Kahn, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers lodged an appeal seeking bail with the New York State Supreme Court. They want him released on bail of $1 million in cash and placed under 24-hour home detention with electronic monitoring, according to the court papers. A bail hearing is due to be held on Thursday. It is unclear whether Strauss-Kahn will attend.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Edith Honan and Basil Katz in New York and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Timeline of Events in Strauss-Kahn Case

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being held in a prison in New York on charges that he attempted to rape a maid at a New York hotel on Saturday.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have denied the charges.

The scandal has appeared to wreck his hopes of running for president of France and has prompted calls for new leadership of the IMF which oversees the world economy.

Here is a timeline of events:

FRIDAY AFTERNOON – Strauss-Kahn checked into a $3,000 a night suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan, which a law enforcement source said he was paying a discounted rate of $800.
The suite has a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom. The 30-storey hotel has an Art Deco restaurant and bar called Gaby, which the website (www.sofitel.com) says serves “French flair in a glamorous setting.’’

The hotel is near Times Square, Broadway theaters, Fifth Avenue shopping and Central Park.

SATURDAY ABOUT 12:00 P.M. EDT (1600 GMT) – A 32-year-old maid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite, room 2806, which she apparently thought was unoccupied.

Following routine procedure, the maid announced herself when she entered the suite, and left the front door to the suite unlocked and ajar, a law enforcement said. She entered the living room and saw nobody. Then she opened the door to the bedroom, where she saw Strauss Kahn, naked. She apologized and said she would come back later, and started to leave the room.

Strauss-Kahn allegedly ran after the maid and, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors, shut the door of his hotel room, preventing her from leaving. He grabbed the victim’s chest without consent, attempted to remove her pantyhose, and forcibly grabbed the victim’s vaginal area. His penis made contact with the victim’s mouth twice through the use of force, prosecutors said.
The woman fled and reported the incident to her supervisor who called police. Strauss-Kahn left the hotel, leaving behind his mobile phone.

An ambulance was called to the hotel and the woman was taken to a hospital where she was treated and released.

SATURDAY, 12.28 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn checked out of the Sofitel hotel, according to court papers filed by his lawyers with the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday.

SATURDAY, 12.45 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn “proceeded to a previously scheduled lunch a few blocks away’’ from the Sofitel hotel, according to the court papers.

SATURDAY, about 1:30 P.M. – Security staff at the Sofitel called police to report the alleged sexual assault, a law enforcement source told Reuters. The first police units arrived at the hotel at 1:45 pm, the source said.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – “Strauss-Kahn was driven to John F. Kennedy International Airport to catch an Air France flight to Paris, which was scheduled to depart at 4:40 p.m. A seat for Mr. Strauss-Kahn had been reserved on that particular flight approximately one week in advance,’’ court papers filed by defense lawyers said.

SATURDAY, about 3.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn called the hotel to ask about his missing mobile phone.

Police were still at the hotel and asked the staff member speaking to Strauss-Kahn to tell him an urgent effort would be made to return the phone. Strauss-Kahn told the hotel staff member to bring the phone to him at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

SATURDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn boarded Air France flight 23 for Paris at New York’s JFK airport and was seated in the first class section. He had been due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Europe on Sunday and attend meetings on the region’s debt crisis on Monday.

SATURDAY about 4:40 P.M. – Police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the bridges, tunnels and airports in the area, boarded the flight minutes before it was due to depart and detained Strauss-Kahn. He was not handcuffed.

The Port Authority police turned him over to New York Police Department detectives from the Midtown South Precinct, which covers the area of Manhattan where the Sofitel hotel is located. They handcuffed him.

Strauss-Kahn made no statements and requested a lawyer. He was taken to the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit in the Harlem neighborhood, where he was kept in a room reserved for questioning. He made no statements and declined any food. The Special Victims Unit investigates sex crimes.

SATURDAY NIGHT/SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – The consul general of France met with Strauss-Kahn under the regular rules of consular protection for all French citizens detained abroad, said Marie-Laure Charrier, a spokeswoman for the French consulate in New York.

SUNDAY 1:15 A.M. – Brafman told Reuters in an email that the IMF chief would plead not guilty.

Brafman is a high-profile criminal lawyer who was part of Michael Jackson’s legal team that successfully defended the pop singer against child molestation charges in 2005. Brafman also won an acquittal on weapons and bribery charges for rap mogul Sean “P. Diddy’’ Combs.

SUNDAY 2:15 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Strauss-Kahn spent the night at the Special Victims Unit, which is on the second floor of a red brick and concrete building, sleeping in a chair with his feet propped up in another chair.

SUNDAY MORNING, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a breakfast of home fries, scrambled eggs and toast brought in from an outside diner, a law enforcement said.

SUNDAY 11 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, said in a statement: “I do not believe for a single second the accusations leveled against my husband … I do not doubt his innocence will be established.’’

SUNDAY 1 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Brafman and William Taylor, arrived and spent half an hour with their client. Brafman again said Strauss-Kahn would plead not guilty.

SUNDAY 2 P.M. – Sofitel New York manager Jorge Tito said in a statement sent by property owner Accor in Paris that the maid who made the allegations had worked for the hotel for three years and was “completely satisfactory in terms of her work and behavior.’’

SUNDAY 3.30 P.M. – Brafman and Taylor arrived and spent 45 minutes with Strauss-Kahn.

SUNDAY 3.50 P.M. – The maid arrived at the Special Victims Unit in a van and shielded by police with a white sheet from photographers. She spent 40 minutes there. She identified Strauss-Kahn in a lineup, a NYPD spokesman said. “It was a standard lineup — six people,’’ he said.

SUNDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn ate a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard and drinks a bottle of water, a law enforcement source said.

SUNDAY 10.30 P.M. – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers told reporters on the steps of Manhattan Criminal Court that his court appearance had been postponed so he could undergo a “scientific and forensic’’ examination that had been requested by investigators. Taylor said Strauss-Kahn was “tired but fine.’’

SUNDAY 11 P.M. – A handcuffed Strauss-Kahn, wearing black pants, a blue dress shirt and a black overcoat, was escorted from the Special Victims Unit by detectives. He was taken to Kings County Hospital in the New York City borough of Brooklyn where he was examined by forensic technicians who specialize in investigating sexual assault cases.

MONDAY about 3.30 A.M – Strauss-Kahn’s mug shot was taken at the Manhattan Criminal Court building detention center, best known as “The Tombs,’’ where he spent the night. The photo showed him looking haggard, his eyes downcast and his shirt collar open.

MONDAY 10.50 A.M. – Strauss-Kahn entered Manhattan Criminal Court for his hearing. Before his appearance, other defendants appeared before the judge in the media-packed courtroom on charges including drug possession, criminal trespassing and delinquency.

Strauss-Kahn appeared to be dressed in the same clothes he was wearing on Sunday and looked tired and grim.

MONDAY 12 P.M – Strauss-Kahn was denied bail. He is due to reappear in court on May 20.

MONDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn was transferred to Rikers Island jail and held in protective custody in an 11 foot by 13 foot cell, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction said.

TUESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – At Strauss-Kahn’s request, the French consul general visited him at Rikers Island jail, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – The French consul general again visited Strauss-Kahn, a consul spokesman said.

WEDNESDAY, TIME UNKNOWN – Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers lodged an appeal seeking bail with the New York State Supreme Court. They want him released on bail of $1 million in cash and placed under 24-hour home detention with electronic monitoring, according to the court papers. A bail hearing is due to be held on Thursday. It is unclear whether Strauss-Kahn will attend.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Edith Honan and Basil Katz in New York and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)

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