The New York Post reports this morning that Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s wealthy friends are trying to spring him from a Manhattan rape trial by paying off the accuser’s international family. The ex-IMF boss is accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid and forcing her to perform oral sex, and despite her protection at the hands of the Manhattan District Attorney, her family lives in Guinea, making them potentially vulnerable to bribes, according to the newspaper. “For sure, it’s going to end up on a quiet note,” a “French businesswoman with close ties to Strauss-Kahn and his family” leaked to the Post. But let’s think about this.
First of all, this is the always-questionable school of tabloid journalism, which, if it wasn’t made clear by the single anonymous source, comes through in the crass language of the article, which describes the accuser’s West African family as living “in a village that lacks paved roads, electricity, and phone lines.” Additionally, “The average monthly income is $45, which is near-starvation, and some of her family members can’t even afford shoes.” And the village is “so off-the-grid” that reporters had to inform them of the alleged rape.
But aside from the cultural insensitivity, there are questions about how this would work practically. “He’ll get out of it and will fly back to France,” insists the Post‘s source. “He won’t spend time in jail. The woman will get a lot of money.”
While this is certainly possible — rich people have gotten away with worse — the logistics seem problematic. This arrangement would require the Guinean family to convince the accuser to drop the charges or refuse to testify from across the world, despite all of the steps she’s already made toward bringing her alleged attacker to justice. (Plus there’s the Post‘s own report that they lack “electricity and phone lines,” and thus contact with the accuser, though presumably these mysterious fixers could handle that, too.)
But if her family is indeed being harassed in Africa, it speaks again to the issues that come with the French media’s recklessness in not only naming the accuser, which most U.S. press has refrained from doing, but publishing invasive information about her family as well.
Anyway, if the accuser chose to not testify, for money or otherwise, it could be a non-issue when it comes to Strauss-Kahn’s potential guilt, as the Post admits:
Even without the maid’s testimony, however, prosecutors claim they have plenty of damning evidence to prosecute Strauss-Kahn, including her videotaped statement, grand-jury testimony, statements from fellow hotel employees and semen samples found on the hotel room carpet.
Still, the possibility of a bribe does well to remind us of the myriad cultural, racial and economic complications of this case, in which a Muslim, female, immigrant hospitality worker takes on a white man with financial connections who might’ve been the next president of France.