NEW YORK – Dominique Strauss-Kahn claimed Monday he has diplomatic immunity and asked a New York court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the hotel maid who says he sexually assaulted her.
Attorneys for the former International Monetary Fund leader filed the motion in a Bronx court, arguing judges there do not have the ability to try the case because Strauss-Kahn's time as head of the fund gives him immunity from the litigation.
The 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn was initially charged with attempted rape and held under pricey house arrest after the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, said he attacked her in his hotel suite May 14 and forced her to perform oral sex.
The case was eventually dismissed when prosecutors said they had lost faith in Diallo's credibility after a series of lies she told them unrelated to the assault allegations.
Attorneys for Diallo, who came forward publicly in a series of interviews, filed the lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn in the Bronx Aug. 8 as the criminal case was still active. It recounted in graphic detail the woman's version of the encounter but did not ask for specific damages.
There is a lower burden of proof in civil cases, and it is possible that Strauss-Kahn would have to testify if it went to trial. He recently spoke about the incident at the Sofitel Hotel in an interview broadcast on French television, calling the encounter a "moral failing," but he said it "did not involve violence, constraint or aggression."
The 32-year-old Guinean immigrant maintains Strauss-Kahn attacked her. Her attorney, Kenneth Thompson, said Monday the diplomatic immunity claim would fail because he is not an official diplomat and was on "personal" business when the incident occurred.
"This baseless motion is another desperate attempt to avoid having to answer for the deplorable acts he committed against Ms. Diallo," Thompson said.
The documents filed Wednesday argue that Strauss-Kahn should be immune under international law even though he had already resigned his post as head of the IMF when the lawsuit was filed. His immunity stood until he left the country, shortly after his case was dismissed, his lawyers argued.
Strauss-Kahn's travel documents are stamped "DIPLOMATIC" in bright red lettering, and signed by the secretary-general of the United Nations. The documents recite in six languages that the bearer is entitled to international immunities, according to the court documents.
His attorneys, William Taylor and Benjamin Brafman, also filed a motion to delete paragraphs in Diallo's lawsuit that detail the encounter as fact from her perspective.
The Associated Press does not generally name accusers in sexual assault cases unless they agree to be named or identify themselves publicly, as Diallo has done.
A French writer has accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in 2003. The two have been ordered to appear before a judge in Paris to tell their stories as part of an investigation into the case. No date for the so-called face-off has been set.