The XX Factor

Justice for No One in the DSK Case   

Photo by STEPHEN CHERNIN/AFP/Getty Images

Emily, I grudgingly concede that the prosecutors in the DSK case made the right decision in dropping the charges, but it’s one of the only things they’ve gotten right about this case. The rushed investigation was bad enough, but all the leaks from the prosecutor’s office were inexcusable.

One of the first things we learned about upon hearing that the case against DSK was crumbling was the leaked phone call in which accuser Nafissatou Diallo allegedly said, “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing.” That translation was not corroborated by a subsequent translation, as our colleague William Saletan pointed out today. Instead, the translation implied that Diallo feared Strauss-Kahn’s wealth and influence, not that she was trying to capitalize on it.

Other discrepancies in the case—Diallo’s lies on her asylum application, the murky bank transactions—mean that, had the case gone to trial, Strauss-Kahn would have certainly been found not guilty. But as it was, there was a trial, in the media, and it was Nafissatou Diallo’s. The prosecutor’s office should have done a more careful and patient investigation before charging DSK. In the absence of that, they should have at least kept the leaks out of the news.

Rape cases are rarely clear-cut, black-and-white affairs. Women can falsely accuse men of rape; men can falsely claim that the act was consensual. But the justice system can’t account for such gray areas, and the relentless media cycle has no patience for such nuance.  So what the world is going to see is that one more woman who said she was raped was lying, and that’s going to make it harder for the next high-profile accuser. (I am having a hard time recalling a recent high-profile rape conviction.)

None of this had to happen. The prosecutor’s office hurried the investigation, and then its leaks made the alleged victim unusable as a witness.  I can’t bring myself to applaud them for finally getting this one thing right.