By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lawyers for the hotel maid who accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her said on Monday that a bid to dismiss her civil suit by asserting he had diplomatic immunity was "utterly meritless."
Strauss-Kahn was cleared of all criminal charges he forced Guinean immigrant Nafissatou Diallo to perform oral sex in a New York luxury suite on May 14. Diallo filed a civil suit against him in August.
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the civil suit late last month in New York state Supreme Court in the Bronx, where the woman lived, asserting that the onetime French presidential hopeful had diplomatic immunity.
But in legal papers released on Monday, Diallo's lawyers said Strauss-Kahn enjoyed limited immunity at best -- a status that would not protect him from criminal or civil prosecution in a sex assault case -- and that the claim was nothing more than an effort to "dupe" the court.
Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund four days after he was arrested in May, never asserted immunity while under criminal prosecution, they added, because "he knew it would invariably result in failure."
Strauss-Kahn returned home to Paris last month when prosecutors decided to abandon their pursuit of sexual assault and attempted rape charges against him because they had lost faith in Diallo's credibility.
Earlier this month, French authorities also closed an investigation into another incident involving French writer Tristane Banon, who accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in 2003 when she tried to interview him in a Paris apartment.
The Diallo civil suit is the last standing legal claim against Strauss-Kahn.
Under U.S. law, Diallo's suit remains viable even after the dismissal of the criminal charges because the burden of proof is substantially lower in civil cases, and the potential punishment does not include incarceration.
In a separate motion, Diallo's lawyers rejected a call from Strauss-Kahn's lawyers to strike portions of the civil lawsuit alleging that he assaulted other women. Diallo's lawyers argued that the allegations are "likely to be admissible at trial" and should therefore remain.
In an interview on French television soon after his return home, Strauss-Kahn said the encounter with Diallo was a "moral error" but that it was consensual. He also vowed to stay out of the Socialist Party's 2012 election campaign in France.
(Editing by Michelle Nichols and Mohammad Zargham)