NEW YORK - French banker Dominique Strauss-Kahn cannot claim diplomatic immunity to avoid a lawsuit filed by a hotel maid who alleged he sexually assaulted her last year, a state judge ruled Tuesday.
The ruling by Bronx State Supreme Court Justice Douglas E. McKeon clears the way for more litigation, including a possible trial, in the civil case brought by Nafissatou Diallo, 33, the hotel worker who charged that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her when she attempted to clean his room at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan.
In his 12-page decision, McKeon said that while Strauss-Kahn, 63, was the head of the International Monetary Fund at the time of the alleged encounter on May 14, 2011, international and U.S. law didn't give him absolute immunity for his conduct.
McKeon also said Strauss-Kahn's attempt to throw "his own version of a 'Hail Mary' pass" by claiming he retained some immunity after resigning his IMF post on May 18, 2011, also wasn't supported by law.
"We are extremely pleased with Judge McKeon's well-reasoned and articulate decision recognizing that Strauss-Kahn is not entitled to immunity," Douglas H. Wigdor, an attorney representing Diallo, said in a prepared statement. "We have said all along that Strauss-Kahn's desperate plea for immunity was a tactic designed to delay these proceedings and we now look forward to holding him accountable for the brutal sexual assault that he committed."
William Taylor III, an attorney representing Strauss-Kahn, said his client is disappointed the judge did not grant the motion to dismiss the lawsuit. "He is determined to fight the claims brought against him, and we are confident that he will prevail," Taylor said.
Jeffrey Lichtman, a Manhattan legal expert, said Strauss-Kahn now has to answer the lawsuit before again seeking dismissal. Failing that, he will have to settle the case or stand trial. Diallo still may have trouble collecting a judgment even if Strauss-Kahn's wife, French media personality Anne Sinclair, is wealthy, he noted.
"Just because he had a rich wife, doesn't mean a rich wife has to pay for his [actions]," Lichtman said.
After Strauss-Kahn was indicted, the Manhattan district attorney's office dropped the charges, deciding Diallo had credibility problems as a witness. Diallo then filed the civil case against Strauss-Kahn.
McKeon noted that, after World War II, agreements that created the IMF permitted absolute immunity for actions of its employees acting on official business. But the court noted that the immunity didn't protect Strauss-Kahn from a lawsuit after he resigned from the agency over allegations not related to official activity.
In France, Strauss-Kahn also faces allegations, which he has denied, that he was involved in a prostitution ring in the city of Lille.