"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the Concept of Reasonable Doubt

Everyone knows by now that the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF, for raping a maid in the Sofitel, a swanky Manhattan hotel, has fallen apart.   The maid apparently was caught in numerous lies and had ties to drug traffickers and (perhaps) money laundering:
According to the two officials, the woman had a phone conversation with an incarcerated man within a day of her encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in which she discussed the possible benefits of pursuing the charges against him. The conversation was recorded.

That man, the investigators learned, had been arrested on charges of possessing 400 pounds of marijuana. He is among a number of individuals who made multiple cash deposits, totaling around $100,000, into the woman’s bank account over the last two years. The deposits were made in Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.

The investigators also learned that she was paying hundreds of dollars every month in phone charges to five companies. The woman had insisted she had only one phone and said she knew nothing about the deposits except that they were made by a man she described as her fiancé and his friends.

In addition, one of the officials said, she told investigators that her application for asylum included mention of a previous rape, but there was no such account in the application. She also told them that she had been subjected to genital mutilation, but her account to the investigators differed from what was contained in the asylum application.
Let's be clear, however, about what this means and what it doesn't mean.   What it means is that the prosecutors, probably correctly, view the chance of gaining a conviction where the maid is the sole witness, as highly dubious, because her credibility as a witness will be so easily impeached.   They can't get to "beyond a reasonable doubt," the American standard for convicting anyone of a crime.   What it does not mean includes:
  • That no rape occurred.   It is not disputed that Strauss-Kahn had sexual contact with the woman, and though he claims it was consensual, his conduct immediately afterward -- rushing to the airport to leave the country -- strongly suggests a guilty conscience.
  • That Strauss-Kahn is anything other than a scoundrel.  Consider the best case scenario for him:  a powerful man, the head of the IMF and  a likely Presidential candidate in France, has "consensual" sex with an immigrant hotel maid minutes after encountering her.  Whatever you might say about that not being a crime -- and however "French" and "sophisticated" you may pretend to be -- in my book that marks him down as a disgusting old man.  Gentlemen simply don't behave that way; only fools and libertines do.   If he was the victim of a plot -- perhaps to blackmail him -- he was only victimized because he was an easy "mark," i.e., because he was the type of man who would fall for it.  I wouldn't want that type of man leading the IMF or leading a country, even if the country is France. 
So, while Strauss-Kahn may end up "innocent" before the law, that doesn't mean he needs to be treated as an "innocent" as a public figure, or allowed to behave as if he didn't behave scandalously.  He's not; and he did.   He's simply "not guilty." 

No comments:

Post a Comment