The bottom seems all but knocked out of the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The dramatic change in the fortunes of the former chief of the International Monetary Fund, who has been released from house arrest, is a result of the discovery that the Guinean hotel maid who accused him had told a string of lies about her background as well as her actions on the day of the alleged sexual assault. The ground-shifting revelations include her falsifying details in her application for political asylum, including fabricating a story about being raped and beaten up in Guinea; her telling an incarcerated drug dealer — the day after she levelled rape charges — that she could make money off the case; and her puzzling behaviour of entering another room after the alleged assault and returning to clean Mr. Strauss-Kahn's suite before reporting the incident. All of this may fall short of proving there was no attempted rape. Although called into question time and again, strictly speaking the reputation of a woman — including such things as her sexual or criminal history — is irrelevant in determining whether she was a victim of rape. However, given the nature of the heinous crime alleged, corroborative evidence is difficult to come by; as a result, courts depend a great deal on the credibility of the victim and her testimony.

In the Strauss-Kahn case, the forensic evidence establishes that a sexual encounter did take place in his Manhattan hotel suite. The issue was always whether this was consensual or forced. If the case does come up for trial, which seems unlikely at this juncture, the new revelations about the maid and her actions would leave any jury extremely sceptical that she was being truthful about what took place. Mr. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers are bound to portray him as a victim of an extortionist trap. If the case is given the burial that many now expect, the focus of attention will turn to Mr. Strauss-Kahn's political future. If he is cleared of all charges, his supporters will hope he will reclaim his position as the Socialist Party's front-runner for next year's French Presidential election. However, with the prosecution deciding to push on with the investigation, Mr. Strauss-Kahn could be running out of time. His party's primary for selecting its candidate to contest against President Nicolas Sarkozy is to take place in October. It also remains to be seen whether the slew of reports about his extra-marital affairs and his habit of making unwelcome advances, which appeared in the media soon after he was charged with attempted rape, will retard a quick and complete political rehabilitation.

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