The shift came when the Manhattan District Attorney's office disclosed in a letter to the defense team that the accuser admitted to lying on her 2004 asylum application. According to her lawyer, she came forward and volunteered this information to prosecutors through him in the interest of accuracy. The prosecution further admits in the letter that "the complainant was untruthful with assistant district attorneys about a variety of additional topics concerning her history, background, present circumstances and personal relationships," without providing specific details. The New York Times has since disclosed that the accuser confirmed her story of alleged rape to a boyfriend held in an immigration jail in Arizona, during a taped private conversation in her native dialect.
Depending on personal biases and projections, one might choose to focus on the fact that she has a boyfriend in jail, or rather on the details of her version of the rape story. The only opinion that matters is that of the jury hearing and weighing all the facts -- if a jury is ever given that chance. Any lies on asylum applications should be dealt with and punished to the full extent of the law. Should this woman face punishment for that? Indeed she should -- including deportation, if warranted. But it ought to be possible to separate this from the unrelated facts of the alleged rape incident in question.
But justice is a game that doesn't necessarily uncover the truth. A person can be telling the truth and still have her case dismissed because the prosecutor doesn't feel it can be won with 100 percent certainty "beyond reasonable doubt." The public is then left to conclude that because the case wasn't pursued, the accuser must be a liar and the accused "innocent" or "exonerated." In reality, the accused often luck out, because to make it all the way through the game of "justice," having the truth on one's side isn't enough. Particularly in rape cases, one needs to be the perfect victim.
The rationale is that if an accuser has lied at some point in her life, she might be lying about rape. Yet it's a pretty sure bet that the victim of every rapist currently behind bars has lied at some point in her life. If that were the test applied to every crime, then no one would ever be imprisoned -- unless the victim were already dead, and therefore proven to have definitely not lied about being murdered.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn's supporters have argued that he may be a seducer but certainly isn't some kind of Neanderthal rapist. These are two totally different things, they say. And this, despite the fact that French writer Tristane Banon is filing a complaint against Strauss-Kahn for allegedly trying to rape her in 2003. Banon claims her Socialist Party politician mother advised her at the time to keep quiet.
If Strauss-Kahn defenders are willing to smear an accuser's credibility based on details unrelated to the event in question, then why aren't they willing to do the same with Strauss-Kahn? If prosecutors think that their chief witness, the maid, has a credibility problem, then maybe it ought to be weighed against the credibility problem of the accused, highlighted by the Banon complaint. Or, preferably, maybe everything should just be judged strictly on its own merit inside a courtroom.
Nothing in the prosecutors' letter calls into question the facts or evidence surrounding the alleged rape itself -- only the victim's history and background. Nor does the note explain how Strauss-Kahn's semen allegedly ended up on a woman he claims he didn't rape, yet didn't know prior to his stay in the hotel room she was cleaning. Unless semen-smearing is the new handshake, something doesn't quite add up. Her lawyer also describes a serious shoulder ligament tear sustained during the encounter. These are the kinds of matters a trial would address. But in order to get to the point of trial, prosecutors can't be spooked by the idea of an imperfect victim possibly blemishing their track record.
May the prosecutors nut up and allow the game of justice be allowed to play out.
(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host who writes regularly for major publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.)