New York: The New York prosecution heading the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn refused on Wednesday to recuse its office, following calls from the former IMF chief’s accuser to do so.
Prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance “strongly disagree” with how the legal team of the 32-year-old hotel maid characterised their work and the calls for a rare recusal, said DA spokeswoman Erin Duggan.
“Any suggestion that this Office should be recused is wholly without merit,” Duggan said.
Earlier the Guinean-born woman’s lawyer Kenneth Thompson wrote a letter to Vance calling on his office to be replaced by a special prosecutor because of “damaging leaks” that forced prosecutors to admit they had serious doubts about her credibility.
The admission had triggered Strauss-Kahn’s release from house arrest last week.
“District Attorney Vance, we ask in earnest that your office voluntarily recuse itself from the Strauss-Kahn case and that you appoint a special prosecutor,” Thompson wrote.
Strauss-Kahn’s defence lawyers earlier met with prosecutors from Vance’s office at which they were expected to discuss whether the case should be dismissed – as prosecutors have demanded – or if a plea deal is possible.
In his letter, Thompson also spoke of a “potential conflict of interest” by Vance’s office because the head of the prosecutor’s trial division is married to one of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers involved in the case, and no prosecutors had informed the accuser’s team of such.
The lawyer said he first learned about that relationship in a New York Times article last month.
“We should have been told about this matter by members of your office and not by members of the press,” Thompson wrote.
He noted that one of the prosecutors had “screamed at and disrespected the victim while she met with them”, and was still assigned to the case, which Thompson said “gives us great concern about whether your office can truly determine what is in the interest of justice”.
Recusals are rare in the United States, though special prosecutors can be asked to take over in special circumstances.
Prosecutors had said the maid had given false information on tax and asylum application forms, including about an alleged gang rape in Guinea. Perhaps even more damaging, she had lied in sworn testimony about the Strauss-Kahn case.
Strauss-Kahn’s defence team indicated last week that they would be unwilling to agree to a plea deal over a lesser felony or misdemeanour charge unless the prosecution could find some damning evidence of wrongdoing.
The prosecution is promising to carry on its investigations until the truth emerges, insisting the case is not dismissed and that the charges stand.