The case appears to be over. Dominique Strauss-Kahn will return to France a free man and be acclaimed for his triumph over the egregious elements of so-called U.S. legal justice. In fact, he may even be guilty of a violent attack on a hotel chambermaid. But that doesn't reallyt matter anymore. The "alleged" victim (one must continue to use "alleged") is a liar -- and provably so -- and whether she lied also about the ultimate issue in the case (i.e. whether she was forced to give him sex) is now beside the point. She has done irreparable damage to her own credibility and, perhaps more importantly, to rape victims everywhere. They will now know the cost of coming forward with rape complaints when it is they, perhaps even more than the accused, who will become the target. Indeed, legal protections of rape victims by rape shield laws and removing corroboration requirements may be in jeopardy.
Nor does it matter whether it was the prosecutors, the world-wide press, or the defense attorneys who discovered the maid's litany of lies. It appears, at least at the moment, that the prosecutors themselves either became suspicious or were told of some problems in her story by her own attorney. It was inevitable that DSK's able attorneys would have for use at trial at least some of the extremely-exculpatory material -- the false claims on her asylum petition; the phony tax deduction; the false account of her hiding just before she complained; the relationship with a drug dealer and multiple telephone numbers; the suspicious deposits to her bank account; and the recorded bragging that she knew how to deal with the "rich guy."
Why? First, the press was all over this case. The French press even had the victim's name in print (something that wouldn't occur but for Strauss-Kahn's status in France) which the prosecutors knew would yield "unhelpful" personal information about her coming out of the woodwork on both sides of the Atlantic. And second, in this "rich man's case," the defense simply had unlimited resources to investigate her, with or without the press's assistance. And the prosecutors surely knew how deadly that combination can be for a successful prosecution.
It is unimportant now whether DSK did indeed have a sexual encounter with the victim. His lawyers pretty much admitted that from Day 1. And likewise we shouldn't be concerned that it is much-more-than-likely that cash was somehow involved. However, charming or powerful DSK might be, one suspects that his charm or power would not have been the driving force in the victim's "willingness" to have sex with him, if indeed it was a willingness. So, if the French are willing to forgive DSK for his own personalized version of pay-for-play, why should it be any of our business?
No, none of these are what is truly at issue now that the dust may have finally begun to settle over this scandal -- meaning the scandal of how quick American justice can be and was here to pursue and basically convict DSK in the court of public opinion. What is truly at issue is the gross disparity in justice that is often accorded defendants in the United States. The man on the street who is accused of a crime as was involved here (or even another kind of crime) doesn't typically have prosecutors coming forward with the kind of mea culpa that we saw last week. No, particularly if the man on the street was quickly indicted, his case would languish, very often with him behind bars, waiting for justice -- if indeed she ever showed up.
The New York County District Attorney surely knew the quality of attorneys who would ultimately be throwing fastballs (and curveballs) at the victim and that the world's press would be watching. Again, irrelevant whether the clues of the victim's falsities and flaws originated with the press or defense counsel, or were born at 1 Hogan Place in New York City, the home of the District Attorney's office. You don't prosecute even a guilty man if you know you're going to lose.
The real question here is the impact on the rest of the criminal docket of this miscarriage -- a miscarriage even if (when) the case is finally dismissed. That the District Attorney came forward to essentially acknowledge its rush to judgment is surely a good thing, putting aside for the moment the horrible injustice that was done to Strauss-Kahn (guilty or innocent). Rushes to judgment are never good, even if done for a valid reason -- the need to get a quick indictment of DSK to help ensure that he would not flee.
But what about the guy on the street with a disturbing rap sheet and a wet-behind-the ears lawyer-with a portfolio of 300 cases who is required to dispense rough justice? Will he get the justice -- if you can call it that -- that DSK is finally getting? Or will this just be another case of rich man's justice -- even if an horrific story, albeit with a partly happy ending? The man on the street who couldn't afford bail, and surely not the kind of bail that DSK posted, would have been in jail for another year or so -- that is, if he were ever released. And virtually no prosecutor would have done the "background check, after-the-fact," if that is what it should be called, to determine if her witness to a run of the mill rape or robbery case were really telling the truth. Perhaps, he would simply do what is commonplace when problems with the victim's credibility surface -- give away a cheap plea and get the case off the docket.
L'Affaire DSK is a crisis for Justice in America but one that could be a teachable moment for our criminal justice. How does Rahm Emanuel say it? "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."