Friday, July 1, 2011

Lady lies

I know little about typical values and attitudes within the US legal system, but I've always had the impression that they don't like liars. Besides, once a person is caught out lying about little things, they're considered capable of lying about big things.

Last night in New York, "questions surfaced about the believability" (as the Los Angeles Times put it) of the 32-year-old woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape. I'm amazed to observe that US media persist in refraining from ever stating the woman's name, Nafissatou Diallo, and that Aussie media seem to parrot mindlessly this habit. There is no law behind this refusal to indicate the plaintiff's name, and no obvious moral justification… in a society that was adamant about justifying the degrading post-arrest perp walk of an accused and handcuffed individual such as DSK.

The lady apparently told investigators that her application for asylum in the USA mentioned a previous rape allegation. When the investigators examined Diallo's asylum documents, however, there was no such mention. The lady had lied. And this could well be one "rape" too many. She also told investigators that her asylum application mentioned the fact that, back in her native Guinea, she had been the victim of customary genital excision… but the actual documents contained no such story. So, once again, the lady had lied. Add to this the fact that Nafissatou Diallo appears to be closely attached to an incarcerated drug dealer, to whom she appealed by phone, the day after the DSK affair, for financial advice.

This afternoon (French time), we'll see what happens during a rapidly-convened confrontation between DSK and the judge Michael Obus. Meanwhile, in France, supporters of DSK are thrilled by this unexpected evolution of the affair. People are even starting to dream about the remote possibility that DSK could emerge in time for next year's presidential election. If ever the case against DSK were to be attenuated or even dropped, we must hope that the personal career of the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance would not suffer adversely, so unfairly, just as we should hope that visceral anti-Americanism would not go viral in France.

REMINDER: Over the last few hours, articles on this latest bombshell in the DSK affair all cite the New York Times report that broke the news: Strauss-Kahn Case Seen in Jeopardy [access] by Jim Dwyer, William Rashbaum and John Eligon. Funnily enough, the latter two journalists were among the seven professionals who contributed to an earlier article, From African Village to Center of Ordeal, enhanced by a romantic image of the kind of simple dwelling in which Nafissatou Diallo (unnamed, of course) was born.

[Click the photo to access the earlier NYTimes article.]

This earlier article painted an idyllic image of the Rousseau-like blank-slate fairy-tale existence of the innocent village girl who was finally brought face-to-face with evil, personified by an illustrious Frenchman, in Manhattan on May 14, 2011. How come the seven NYTimes professionals failed to find anything whatsoever of an alarming nature in the background of their pure unnamed creature named Nafissatou Diallo? Clearly, their capacities as investigative researchers fell far short of the talents of people employed by George W Bush who revealed, once upon a time, the likely existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

AFTER THE HEARING: In speaking to journalists in front of the tribunal building, the defense attorneys William Taylor and Ben Brafman were calm and brief. Brafman even slipped in a word of praise for the courage of Cyrus Vance, and concluded poetically by saying that, on July 4, Independence Day, there would be celebrations concerning the "personal independence" of DSK and his family. Wow, that's a distinguished reference applied on American soil to a newly-liberated Frenchman! I was half hoping that he would go one step further and declare that, shortly after July 14, Bastille Day, the former prisoner would be freed definitively from the yoke of injustice. When the Afro-American lawyer Kenneth Thompson stepped up to the microphones, I wouldn't have been unduly surprised if he had broken into a moving oration on the abolition of slavery.

Instead of that, he started to develop a forensic explanation of the violent ways in which DSK is alleged to have attacked the innocent maid, designated systematically as the victim. To add a dramatic effect to his description of DSK grabbing the maid's breasts, Thompson mimed that act on his own chest. He was a top-class showman. At one stage, the black lawyer made such a vivid presentation of the way in which the strong hands of the aggressor had groped the victim's vagina that listeners were surely ready for almost anything in the way of nasty details. Were we about to learn that the aggressor's fingerprints were clearly etched on the smooth dark skin of the lady's loins? Worse still, on the scale of horrors, was the lawyer going to tell us that this part of the lady's anatomy had been rendered fragile by the excision operation, and that an entire vulval section had been ripped away from her body by the rapist, whose physical force was akin to that of a champion wrestler?

No, Kenneth Thompson didn't actually say that. Instead, he thought it preferable, after his clinical descriptions of the alleged crime, to accuse some of the prosecutor's men of having dealt roughly with the victim. He even declared: "Our concern is that the Manhattan district attorney is too afraid to try this case. We believe he’s afraid he’s going to lose this high-profile case." To what audience was Kenneth Thompson addressing his dramatic performance out in front of the court building? To me, that's a mystery. He couldn't have been pouring out all those dirty details for Cyrus Vance, since we can suppose that the district attorney has already heard everything that can possibly be said about what might have happened. Maybe he was talking to TV viewers who might influence—directly or indirectly—a future jury decision. Or maybe he was simply talking to nobody in particular, merely because he felt he was expected to say nasty thinks about the accused. Maybe he has his back to the wall, and he needed to let off a bit of steam.

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