DSK's lawyers meet for settlement talks with New York hotel maid as he holidays in Venice with his new girlfriend
09:24 GMT, 10 December 2012
The hotel housekeeper's lawsuit against former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn may soon end when their respective lawyers meet on Monday to discuss settlement details.
The maid, Nafissatou Diallo, is expected to be there, but Strauss-Kahn is not as he was just spotted in Venice, Italy with his girlfriend over the weekend.
If a deal is inked, it could be simply the product of a meeting of financial motives – getting compensated for an alleged wrong versus avoiding further legal expenses and the uncertainty of a trial.
Traveling man: Dominque Strauss-Kahn was just spotted in Venice, Italy with his girlfriend Myriam Aouffir over the weekend, the day before his lawyer is due to meet for a settlement discussion in New York
Not a care in the world: The couple were seen arriving to the Italian city by boat before spending the evening walking around and snuggling over dinner
Brand management: DSK has suffered multiple blows to his public opinion since a maid in a New York hotel accused him of sexual assault
It might be fueled by legal calculus in a case with two key figures who could face uncomfortable questions on a witness stand, or by personal desires to move on. Or all of the above.
'There are a lot of factors that go into why someone settles a case when they do, and it really comes down to, in large part, the appetite that litigants have for being in litigation,' said Stuart Slotnick, a New York lawyer whose recent work includes representing American Apparel CEO Dov Charney in a sexual harassment case filed by an employee.
'There are people whose lives are disrupted by virtue of the fact that they know they are being sued or are involved in litigation.'
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers acknowledged late last month there had been settlement talks, though they dismissed as 'flatly false' a French newspaper report that Strauss-Kahn had agreed to pay $6million.
Diallo's lawyers have declined to comment.
Both Diallo's and Strauss-Kahn's lives have been upended since the day in May 2011 that she reported he forced her to perform oral sex and tried to rape her after she went to clean his room. He said the encounter was consensual.
Diallo, 33, a Guinean immigrant and widowed mother of a teenage girl, was whisked into protective custody with her daughter for weeks in a hotel.
New support: Though his wife initially stood by him in the wake of the scandal, more women came out saying that he had assaulted them as well over the years
New lady: Adding further turmoil to his personal life, Strauss-Kahn and his wife, journalist Ann Sinclair, have separated and he is now seeing Aouffir
New ventures: Strauss-Kahn has supposedly been giving lectures at international development conferences and started a new consulting firm in Paris
She hasn't returned to the job she held for three years at the Sofitel New York; she is on workers' compensation, the hotel chain says.
Her lawyers have said Strauss-Kahn tore a ligament in her shoulder, which he disputes.
Strauss-Kahn, 63, was arrested and charged with attempted rape and other crimes and resigned from his IMF job.
Accuser: Nafissatou Diallo said that DSK attempted to rape her, and she sued for emotional and physical damages
He soon found himself recast from promising, if philandering, French presidential contender to transcontinental sexual suspect.
Since Diallo came forward, other sexual assault and prostitution allegations have emerged against him.
Though some were withdrawn or deemed too old for prosecutors to pursue, he faces aggravated pimping charges related to a suspected prostitution ring run from a French luxury hotel.
He says he attended 'libertine' gatherings but wasn't aware anyone was paid for sex. A French court is due to rule December 19 on his bid to get those charges thrown out.
Adding further turmoil to his personal life, Strauss-Kahn and his wife, journalist Ann Sinclair, have separated.
Strauss-Kahn has been trying to rebuild his professional stature by giving speeches at international conferences and reportedly setting up a consulting company in Paris.
Manhattan prosecutors dropped their case against Strauss-Kahn in August 2011, saying they had developed doubts about Diallo's trustworthiness.
They said she had wavered in recounting her movements after the alleged attack and lied to them about her past, including a convincing but fictitious story of being gang-raped before.
She said she gave an honest account of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn, and her attorneys said her civil case would prove her right.
'It didn't happen with the DA, but we intend to vindicate Ms. Diallo's rights,' one of her lawyers, Kenneth P. Thompson, said in March.
Strauss-Kahn's side was no less blunt.
Making tracks: DSK and his girlfriend arrived in Venice over the weekend, and he is not expected to appear at the settlement meeting on Monday afternoon in New York
'We have maintained from the beginning that the motivation of Mr. Thompson and his client was to make money,' William W. Taylor III and other Strauss-Kahn attorneys said when Diallo sued in August 2011.
Strauss-Kahn later filed a $1 million defamation suit against her.
Neither case has come close to trial.
Statistically, a settlement is no surprise. In a federal Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of nearly 440,000 state-court civil cases that were closed in 2005, only about 3 percent went to trial.
The rest were settled, dropped or tossed out.
And in Diallo's case, a trial could have red flags for both sides.
For Strauss-Kahn, it could mean a public dissection of his sexual history, since Diallo's suit argued that their encounter reflected a pattern of misogynistic behavior, noted Paul F. Callan, a New York-based lawyer who represented Nicole Brown Simpson's relatives in their wrongful-death suit against O.J. Simpson.
Girlfriend: Ms Aouffir is the online communications and social media marketing manager for France Television and is 20 years younger than Strauss-Kahn
And Diallo would likely again have faced questions about her truthfulness. While the criminal case legally has no bearing on the lawsuit, Strauss-Kahn's lawyers would be able to attack her credibility by drawing on the inconsistencies prosecutors raised, legal observers say.
'When cases have serious problems on both sides, that's when they settle,' Callan said.
Women's-rights advocates rallied to express support for Diallo after the criminal charges were dropped last year.
Advocates deplore seeing women painted as gold-diggers for filing sexual assault suits, and settlements shouldn't reinforce that image, said Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organization for Women's New York City chapter.
'It's hard to come to that conclusion when you see what the ramifications of coming forward are to you in your community, and the detrimental effects it has on your professional life' in some cases, she said.