Strauss-Kahn's lawyers complain about police leaks
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers are concerned leaks could hurt his right to a fair trial and say they have information that could "gravely undermine the credibility" of the hotel maid who has accused him of trying to rape her.
In a letter to Manhattan prosecutors, Strauss-Kahn's lawyers William Taylor and Ben Brafman complained about New York police leaking information about the case to the media. They said they did not blame prosecutors for the leaks.
"Indeed, were we intent on improperly feeding the media frenzy, we could now release substantial information that in our view would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in this case," Taylor and Brafman wrote.
"We are requesting that you use whatever resources are appropriate to stop further leaking immediately," they said in the letter, dated May 25 and addressed to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
A New York Police Department spokesman declined to comment.
The lawyer for the hotel housekeeper, Jeffrey Shapiro, said he was not surprised by the claim by Strauss-Kahn's lawyers about having information against her but called it "cheap."
"Again, it's blame the victim as a bad person," Shapiro said. "I am really mad. I know this woman. I saw the fear in her eyes and her willingness to see this through."
Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, responding to Brafman and Taylor, said prosecutors "were troubled that you chose to inject into the public record your claim that you possess information that might negatively impact the case and 'gravely' undermine the credibility of the victim."
"We are aware of no such information," she wrote.
Prosecutors have said evidence against Strauss-Kahn, a French national, is "substantial and is continuing to grow."
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have asked TD International, a Washington consulting firm founded and staffed by former CIA officers and U.S. diplomats, to join the defense team, Reuters has learned.
It was not clear what the company's role would be but a source close to TD International said the firm would not conduct investigations of the housekeeper.
According to Justice Department filings, in 2007 TD International did "public relations" work for Strauss-Kahn when he was in the running to become managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
A spokesman for TD International said the firm would not comment on its work for clients but that its filings with the Justice Department were accurate.
FAIR TRIAL CONCERN
Strauss-Kahn is accused of trying to rape the housekeeper, a 32-year-old immigrant from Guinea, in his suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel in Manhattan on May 14. Prosecutors have said she had told a "compelling and unwavering story."
Now under house arrest in a luxury New York townhouse, Strauss-Kahn denies charges of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as IMF chief after his arrest, is due to appear in court again on June 6.
His lawyers said in the letter they were concerned "our client's right to a fair trial is being compromised by the public disclosure of prejudicial material even before these materials have been disclosed to his counsel."
As an example, they noted media reports that tests had confirmed Strauss-Kahn's DNA was found on the woman's clothes.
Adam Freedman, a criminal defense attorney in Manhattan, described the letter as "a shot across the bow to the police" and said it was unclear why the defense had not made a formal motion for a gag order or who a gag order could be applied to.
"This may be the defense laying the ground for an appeal saying early and often they've warned about the leaks," Freedman said. "The police generally respond to questions asked of them unless someone has asked them not to or if the information is unfavorable to them."
Another defense attorney, Steve Zissou, said: "Their hope is the judge might get angry and tell everyone to 'keep their damn mouth shut.'"
Brafman and Taylor, who were not immediately available for comment, said in the letter they planned to request information from prosecutors that they believed they were now entitled to because it had been leaked to the media.
"In addition, to the extent that the leaking of information continues, we reserve the right to request a hearing on this issue or apply for any other sanction or other remedial action that court deems appropriate," they wrote.
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