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 spokesman for the New York Police Department was not immediately available for comment.
The lawyer for the hotel housekeeper, Jeffrey Shapiro, said he was not surprised by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers comments about having information that could undermine the woman’s credibility but described it as “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.”
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney John McConnell has said the evidence against Strauss-Kahn, a French national, was “substantial and is continuing to grow every day.”
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. McConnell has said she had told a “compelling and unwavering story.”
FAIR TRIAL CONCERN
Strauss-Kahn, now under house arrest in a luxury New York townhouse, has denied 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 managing director of the International Monetary Fund 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.
Additional reporting by Leigh Jones; editing by Vicki Allen and John O’Callaghan
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