Strauss-Kahn civil case will need more than accusations

NEW YORK Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:51pm EDT

Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn adjust his tie during a hearing at New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan July 1, 2011. Strauss-Kahn was released without bail at a New York court hearing REUTERS/Todd Heisler/Pool

Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn adjust his tie during a hearing at New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan July 1, 2011. Strauss-Kahn was released without bail at a New York court hearing

Credit: Reuters/Todd Heisler/Pool

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - While civil suits have wider latitude of what may be introduced in court, a judge in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn civil case will want hard evidence rather than mere accusations from other women that he sexually assaulted them, analysts say.

In a lawsuit filed this week, Nafissatou Diallo accused Strauss Kahn, 62, of waging a "violent and sadistic" attack on her in a suite at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan on May 14.

Strauss-Kahn has also been charged with sexual assault in criminal court and prosecutors are debating whether to move forward with that case despite concerns about Diallo's credibility.

No date has yet been set for the civil case, but Diallo's lawyer has said she will introduce evidence from women who allegedly were sexually assaulted by the former International Monetary Fund chief in apartments and hotel rooms around the world as well as co-workers whom he is alleged to have sexually coerced.

The stakes are lower in the civil case -- monetary damages, rather than prison time -- but analysts said the admissibility standard remains a high hurdle.

"It's very restrictive for obvious reasons, because otherwise you could just march in a bunch of people who say, 'This is a terrible guy,'" said David Golomb, a former president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association.

Defense attorney Oscar Michelen agreed that Diallo will have a tough time convincing a judge to admit allegations that Strauss-Kahn, a French citizen, has assaulted or coerced women in the past.

"A judge is going to have to analyze whether it proves anything -- or is it just prejudicial to the defendant?" Michelen said.

Even if a judge deems prior acts relevant, Diallo's lawyers will need hard evidence of previous assaults, not simply allegations from other women.

"I think even a state court judge is going to be very concerned about unproven allegations. So what if two other women have claimed this? Have the claims been adjudicated?" Michelen said.

In an interview, Kenneth Thompson, Diallo's lawyer, said he believes the allegations about Strauss-Kahn's behavior with other women are admissible, but declined to elaborate on which specific instances he plans to introduce at trial.

"We've had cases in the past where prior acts have been allowed in," he said.

"At trial, Ms. Diallo will introduce other crimes, wrong (sic) or acts to demonstrate Strauss-Kahn's motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident," the lawsuit says.

While Thompson expects the evidence to be allowed, he conceded that it is an open question "It's going to be totally up to the judge," he said. "We'll make our arguments, opposing counsel will make their arguments."

(Reporting of Jeff Roberts and Joseph Ax; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Christopher Wilson)

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