Strauss-Kahn released without bail, case in doubt

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Former IMF chief Dominique  Strauss-Kahn was released without bail today after a  dramatic court hearing where the sexual assault case against  him appeared to shift in his favour.
Strauss-Kahn, who smiled as he walked out of court, still  faces felony charges of attempted rape and sexually assault  over the alleged attack on a hotel maid in New York. His  lawyers said they will seek to have the charges dismissed but  the judge said prosecutors were continuing to investigate.
The turnabout could upend French politics. Strauss-Kahn,  62, was a strong candidate for the 2012 French presidential  election until his May 14 arrest.
At a hearing to seek changes to his bail conditions,  prosecutors said the credibility of the woman at the center of  the case had been thrown into question.
As a result, the court agreed to let Strauss-Kahn be freed  and his bail and bond returned. He agreed to return to court as  needed, including for a July 18 hearing.
“I understand that the circumstances of this case have  changed substantially and I agree the risk that he would not be  here has receded quite a bit. I release Mr. Strauss-Kahn at his  own recognizance,” Justice Michael Obus told the court.
Strauss-Kahn’s arrest forced his resignation from the  International Monetary Fund and appeared to end his  presidential hopes, weeks before he had planned to declare his  candidacy.
His supporters in the French Socialist party voiced delight  at the apparent reversal and some said they hoped he might  re-enter the 2012 presidential race.
The case has hinged on the accuser, a 32-year-old Guinean  immigrant who cleaned the $3,000-a-night suite at the Sofitel  hotel in Manhattan where Strauss-Kahn was staying.
Prosecutors said at the hearing their change of view on the  maid’s credibility followed “an extensive investigation” but  they gave no details.
The New York Times quoted two well-placed law enforcement  officials as saying prosecutors found issues with the accuser’s  asylum application and possible links to criminal activities,  including drug dealing and money laundering.
They also discovered the woman made a phone call to an  incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with  Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of  pursuing the charges against him, the paper said.
The conversation was recorded. The man was among a number  of people who had made multiple cash deposits, totaling around  $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two  years, The New York Times said.
The woman’s brother told Reuters in Guinea that she was the  victim of a smear campaign.
Her lawyer said after the hearing that his client’s story  had never wavered and Strauss-Kahn’s assertion that she had  consensual sex with him was a lie.

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