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Case against Strauss-Kahn may be crumbling

The sexual assault case in New York against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was in trouble Thursday night after questions surfaced about the believability of his alleged victim.

Strauss-Kahn’s 32-year-old accuser was said to have lied repeatedly and prosecutors have come to question her credibility, even though forensic tests found evidence of a sexual encounter, the New York Times reported, quoting what it said were two well-placed law enforcement officials.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers met with prosecutors Thursday to discuss whether to dismiss the felony charges stemming from the French politician’s May 14 encounter with the Guinea-born housekeeper at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan, the newspaper said. It described the case as being “on the verge of collapse.”

Strauss-Kahn’s bail is expected to be substantially reduced at a hearing Friday because of the issue of the accuser’s credibility, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed person familiar with the case.

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The issue was not necessarily about the attempted rape accusation itself, but about questions surrounding the woman’s background that could damage her credibility on the witness stand, the Associated Press reported, citing a separate, unnamed law enforcement official who refused to elaborate.

Strauss-Kahn lawyer William W. Taylor would say only that the hearing was to review the bail plan. The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment.

A collapse of the case would mark a stunning turnabout for Strauss-Kahn, 62, who has long been a key player in the French Socialist Party and was expected to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next May’s election. Polls suggested he would win. He resigned his IMF post after the arrest.

The woman told police that Strauss-Kahn chased her down a hallway in his $3,000-a-night suite, tried to pull down her pantyhose and forced her to perform oral sex before she broke free.

Strauss-Kahn denies the allegations. His lawyers have said the encounter wasn’t forcible, and that they have unreleased information that could “gravely undermine the credibility” of the housekeeper. Her lawyer has said she is prepared to testify despite a “smear campaign” against her.

Strauss-Kahn has been under armed guard in a Manhattan townhouse after posting a total of $6 million in cash bail and bond. His wife, Anne Sinclair, a wealthy heiress and former French television star, declared from the beginning that she would stand by him and “did not believe for one minute” the accusations against him.

French newspapers swiftly picked up the New York Times report Friday morning. The news agency Agence France-Presse described the development as a coup de theatre — a dramatic turn.

Special correspondent Kim Willsher in Paris contributed to this report.


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