Paper seeks dismissal in Strauss-Kahn accuser suit

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2011 5:20 PM
Paper seeks dismissal in Strauss-Kahn accuser suit

By Jennifer Golson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Post is asking a court to throw out part of the libel lawsuit brought by the woman who accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, saying its reports she was a prostitute fell short of extreme and outrageous conduct.

But the Post, a tabloid that is part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, chose not to seek dismissal of the entire suit filed by Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid from Guinea who accused the potential French presidential candidate of forcing her to perform oral sex in a luxury suite May 14.

The Post and five of its journalists filed a motion to dismiss Diallo's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress in Bronx County court, but did not file a similar motion to dismiss the libel claim.

A criminal court judge threw out all criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn on August 23 on a request from prosecutors who said they had lost confidence in Diallo's credibility.

Strauss-Kahn maintained his innocence from the start, though he was forced to resign as managing director of the International Monetary Fund. The charges also derailed any possible run for president for a man who had been seen as serious contender.

While the criminal case was still alive, Diallo filed a civil suit against the Post in part because of a front-page headline in July that read, "Maid cleaning up as 'hooker'."

That and other references to her as a "working girl" were false, Diallo said, and the Post should have known so, according to the suit.

In a motion filed on August 31 but not previously reported, the Post argued the emotional-distress claim should be dismissed because "merely publishing news articles -- even articles containing allegedly false and defamatory statements" does not rise to the high standard of "extreme and outrageous conduct" that New York courts require to prevail on a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

That standard requires a showing of "consistent, harassing, and abusive conduct" that was absent in the articles about Diallo, which were intended "to report on a newsworthy event," the motion said.

Experts said it would be highly unlikely for Diallo's emotional-distress claim to succeed.

"It's virtually impossible to prove a case (of emotional distress) where the action is strictly the use of words," said Paul Callan, a New York trial lawyer and professor of media law at Seton Hall University. "That's a huge hurdle that they have to get past."

Lawyers for the Post did not immediately return a call for comment, and Diallo's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Additional reporting by Noeleen Walder; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Jerry Norton)