Second act for DSK? After NY settlement, could be

AP News
Posted: Nov 30, 2012 1:44 PM
Second act for DSK? After NY settlement, could  be

PARIS (AP) — His wife is gone (taking her family fortune with her). So is any chance at the French presidency (once considered his to lose). And a large chunk of his dignity has vanished (he still faces a charge of "aggravated pimping").

But second acts come in mysterious ways for French politicians, and the man universally dubbed DSK appears to be making cautious attempts at rehabilitating his professional reputation.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was once notorious for his ability to accumulate power, money and fame. The former head of the International Monetary Fund, a leading French Socialist and potential presidential candidate, was quick-witted and dapper before he fell spectacularly from grace in 2011 with the rape accusations of a New York hotel maid.

Then a young French writer claimed an attempted rape by him years ago was hushed up by her mother, also a DSK conquest. Then, as an appalled France tried to digest a new image of one of Europe's premier economists, came the revelations of past orgies.

Word of a settlement between Strauss-Kahn, 63, and the hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, 33, would close the American case that left his reputation in tatters.

A person familiar with the New York case said that lawyers for Strauss-Kahn and Diallo have made the as-yet-unsigned agreement within recent days, with Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon facilitating. A court date is expected next week, although the day wasn't set, the person said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the private agreement.

Strauss-Kahn's U.S. lawyers said Friday that "the parties have discussed a resolution" but that no settlement has been finalized. His U.S. and French lawyers denied a report in the respected French newspaper Le Monde that Strauss-Kahn would pay $6 million to Diallo.

"By deciding on (a settlement), he's showing that he doesn't believe in his political future," said Philippe Martinat, whose biography of Strauss-Kahn was published a year before the Sofitel hotel encounter in New York. "But he does want to find credibility as an economic expert and be able to share his international experience on a larger stage."

Strauss-Kahn has taken small steps to that end, notably an interview in October in which he demanded "Leave me alone!" before describing his frustration with legal gag orders and his "naive" belief that the French, at least, would understand the libertine life of a man nicknamed "the great seducer." He's started giving speeches at international conferences and reportedly setting up a consulting company in Paris.

"I always believed I could live my personal life as I wanted to," Strauss-Kahn said in the October interview with the magazine Le Point. "Including behavior between freely consenting adults. There are numerous parties for that — you'd be surprised who goes to them. ... I was too out of step with French society for a political leader."

The Socialist economist owed his wealth to his heiress wife, Anne Sinclair, once France's top political talk show host and now the editor of the Huffington Post in France. Sinclair put up his $1 million bail in New York and paid the rent on a townhouse in one of Manhattan's swankiest neighborhoods while her husband fought the lawsuit, but the couple separated as new charges piled up. Despite that, according to Le Monde, she is loaning him half of the settlement with Diallo.

The New York case was the first to disintegrate. Diallo told police that Strauss-Kahn chased her down, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex at the Sofitel hotel where she worked. But within six weeks, prosecutors said Diallo had lied about her past — including a false account of a previous rape — and lied about her actions after leaving Strauss-Kahn's room. They dropped the charges in August 2011.

Two months later, French prosecutors dropped an investigation into writer Tristane Banon's claim that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a 2003 interview for a book that the then-23-year-old was writing. Banon's mother, an aspiring Socialist politician, persuaded her daughter at the time to let it go and by the time the young woman came forward again, prosecutors said it was beyond the statute of limitations.

Banon's mother then acknowledged she herself had had "rough" but consensual sex with Strauss-Kahn once in an office at the Paris-based Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

By then, tales of orgies allegedly organized by a coterie of followers in northern France to feed Strauss-Kahn's appetites began to surface, culminating in a charge of "aggravated pimping" against him — which he firmly denies. A French court decision on whether that case will go forward is scheduled for Dec. 19.

The defense?

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn had a number of parties with women, libertine parties, with some friends and some women who were friends of his friends" his lawyer, Henri Leclerc, said at a press conference earlier this year.

By then, Strauss-Kahn abandoned a run for the French presidency and saw the helm of the Socialist party taken over by Francois Hollande, a man who has promised to be an uncontroversial "President Normal."

Despite all this, it's possible the French could be in a mood to forgive and forget.

Raphaelle Bacque, a Strauss-Kahn biographer who reported Sinclair's role in the settlement in Le Monde, said the end to the judicial process was one thing but not the only obstacle.

"But how public opinion will interpret the agreement, that's a different question, and one that worries Dominique Strauss-Kahn," she said.