Ex-IMF chief's accuser files sex assault complaint
'I can't take it anymore hearing that I must be lying because I haven't filed suit': Banon
A French author who alleges former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during a book interview filed a criminal complaint Tuesday to try to clear her own name of suspicion that she fabricated the accusation.
The suit by Tristane Banon comes as the New York City hotel maid at the centre of an alleged sex assault involving Strauss-Kahn filed a libel lawsuit against the New York Post after it called her a prostitute.
Banon told French news magazine L'Express that she was tired of hearing "lies and rumours" told about the incident in 2003 with Strauss-Kahn.
Strauss-Kahn has labelled Banon's account "imaginary," and has threatened to file a criminal complaint of slander against her.
Strauss-Kahn is free on bail in New York, charged with attempted rape and other crimes after the maid accused him of forcing her to perform oral sex in his New York hotel room in May. The U.S. case has been badly weakened by doubts about the accuser's credibility.
Strauss-Kahn resigned as International Monetary Fund chief to fight the charges.
In a further twist to the saga, his New York accuser filed a libel suit Tuesday against the New York Post after the newspaper called her a prostitute.
The maid's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, filed her claim Tuesday in New York's state Supreme Court. A series of Post articles over the weekend said the 32-year-old was a "prostitute" and a "hooker," and that she "traded sex for money."
The lawsuit says the statements are false. The Post didn't immediately comment.
Banon, meanwhile, said she had waited eight years before filing her complaint because "it's very difficult for any woman in this situation … and it's even more difficult when you know in advance that it's doomed to failure."
Accuser 'left out sordid details' in book
Banon, 31, says she described some of the attack in an "autobiographical novel" she published in 2006 called TheTrapezist.
"I left out some sordid details, about his fingers in my mouth, his hands in my underwear after he ripped off my jeans and my bra," Banon said.
"He grabbed my hand, then my arm, I told him to let me go and that's when the fight started. He pulled me towards him, we fell down and fought on the ground for a few minutes," Banon said.
She said she started kicking him with her boots, then finally broke free, ran down the stairs and called her mother from her car.
"I couldn't even drive I was trembling so much," she said.
Lawyer David Koubbi said Banon had been dissuaded from filing charges by her mother, Anne Mansouret, a regional councillor in Strauss-Kahn's Socialist party.
Mansouret now says she regrets urging her daughter not to file a complaint after the incident but she feared that taking action against such a powerful Frenchman would affect her daughter's career.
Investigation could take years
Now that Banon has filed her complaint, a prosecutor could conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if there is enough evidence to support charges against Strauss-Kahn.
Preliminary charges are followed by a lengthier investigation, sometimes lasting years, to determine if the case should go to trial before a judge.
The same process would apply to the slander complaint against Banon.
A slander charge can be brought against anyone who French prosecutors believe deliberately filed a false complaint with authorities. In Banon's case, an investigation would begin only if her attempted rape complaint is found to be false. A slander charge carries a maximum term of five years in a prison and a $65,000 US fine.
French prosecutors could decide not to pursue the case against Strauss-Kahn if they find evidence he engaged in forcible sexual contact that fell short of attempted rape. The statute of limitations on sexual assault charges in France is three years, while attempted rape charges can be filed for up to 10 years after the alleged crime.
Before the U.S. assault charges, Strauss-Kahn was considered the Socialist Party's strongest possible candidate to defeat conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy in France's 2012 presidential election.
Strauss-Kahn has relinquished his passport to authorities in New York and his next court appearance is July 18.