Strauss-Kahn appeals rejection of immunity claim
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lawyers for former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Monday appealed a judge's decision last month that allowed a civil lawsuit filed against him by a hotel maid to move forward.
In court papers filed in the Bronx, Strauss-Kahn's legal team argued that New York state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon erred in ruling that Strauss-Kahn was not entitled to diplomatic immunity from the sexual assault lawsuit.
Nafissatou Diallo, a maid at the Sofitel Hotel in midtown Manhattan, accused Strauss-Kahn of attacking her in his suite on May 14, 2011. He has said the encounter was consensual, and prosecutors eventually dropped the charges against him last summer after they grew concerned about Diallo's credibility.
The scandal forced Strauss-Kahn to resign from the International Monetray Fund and ended his plans to seek the French presidency.
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have argued that he had absolute immunity from both criminal and civil prosecution at the time of the incident, based on a 1947 U.N. treaty that grants protection to the heads of specialized agencies. Though the U.S. is not a signatory, they asserted that it had become so widely accepted that it has the force of international law worldwide.
But McKeon rejected that claim on May 1, calling it a desperate attempt and pointing out that Strauss-Kahn failed to assert his immunity at any point during the criminal investigation, even when he was pulled from an Air France airplane and placed under arrest.
The appeal will be considered by the Appellate Division, First Department, an intermediate New York appellate court.
Kenneth Thompson, an attorney for Diallo, said he believed the judge's ruling would be upheld on appeal.
"We believe the first department will uphold Judge McKeon's decision regarding Strauss-Kahn's baseless motion to dismiss," Thompson said.
In addition, the Manhattan District Attorney's office filed court papers on Monday challenging a request from Diallo's lawyers seeking a wide array of investigative documents from prosecutors.
The request was "overbroad" and sought privileged information, including witness statements and internal memoranda, prosecutors wrote. They also said that Strauss-Kahn's criminal file is sealed, as the law requires when charges are dismissed, and cannot be unsealed without his permission or an order from the court that handled his case.
"We're entitled to evidence that would support Ms. Diallo's case," Thompson said in response. "We are going to fight to get that evidence."
Photographs of a disheveled Strauss-Kahn shepherded into court appeared around the globe last spring but prosecutors eventually lost faith in Diallo's account, saying she had lied about her past and had offered several versions of her actions immediately following the encounter with Strauss-Kahn.
Diallo filed the civil lawsuit a few weeks before the criminal case was dismissed in August. Since then, Strauss-Kahn's legal troubles have continued. French authorities announced in March he is under formal investigation in connection with a prostitution ring in the northern city of Lille.
His French lawyers have accused authorities of harassing Strauss-Kahn for his "libertine ways" and denied any criminal wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by M.D. Golan and Sandra Maler)
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