Cryptic first Strauss-Kahn tweet ignites imaginations


If you were a disgraced politician accused of pimping and rape in a trial that revealed your fondness for anal sex and orgies with young women, what would be your first message to the world after your acquittal?

For Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former finance minister of France and ex-managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the answer turns out to be: “Hello Twitter! Jack is Back.”

Strauss-Kahn, whom a French court acquitted on June 12 of allegations that he knowingly hired the services of hookers, left that enigmatic message on Twitter on June 21, when he joined the social network. He has not tweeted since, though he has amassed 44,000 followers in the space of three days.

The cryptic message “lit a fire under the imaginations” of many, according to an article in Le Point, a French weekly. The article sought to connect the tweet to the trial, which many found interesting not because of what Strauss-Kahn, or “DSK” as he is known in France, said he didn’t do, but because of what he said he did do – namely having rough anal sex with women half his age.

While he denied knowing his sexual partners were prostitutes, he did not dispute sodomizing several of them at after-hours sex parties in hotels as of 2010 – one year before French prosecutors heard his name while investigating a prostitution network in Lille, northern France.

During the trial, Jade, a prostitute who was sexually abused as a child, described the atmosphere at a Paris hotel orgy where she pleasured DSK. “No one asked me my name, there was just a hand on my head to fellate him,” she said. DSK subjected her to anal penetration against her wishes on a different occasion, she said, adding: “I didn’t have time to say no.”

DSK described the orgies as relief from his stressful work. He told the judge he knew neither that Jade was a hooker nor that she felt he had forced himself on her. He apologized for causing her any discomfort or pain against her will. But accounts of his calculated love of debauchery left many wondering as to the sincerity of his regret, or whether he viewed his sex partners as anything more than sex dolls with a pulse.

Once a promising Socialist Party candidate for the French presidency – many French Jews hoped he would become the first member of the tribe to hold the post — DSK arguably has paid dearly for his double life. His political career ruined and his name synonymous with shameless exploitation of the poor, his ex-wife (Jewish) television presenter Anne Sinclair left him in 2013.

Still, some were inclined to believe his expressions of regret in court came from the heart – an impression strengthened by DSK’s insistence that he truly believed the young women he penetrated were just looking for a good time, and his out-of-court settlement with a chamber maid from a New York hotel who accused him of rape. U.S. prosecutors cleared him of the rape and related charges in 2011.

Lingering doubts were likely not allayed by the triumphant tone of DSK’s latest tweet, according to Le Point, which offered several interpretations of the text to its readers.

“Jack is Back is what the prostitutes and police officers of Whitechapel used to say regularly in 1888,” the paper read, in a clear reference to Jack the Ripper — the uncaught slayer of several prostitutes in London.

Strauss-Kahn countersues NY hotel maid for $1 million


Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has filed a $1 million countersuit against the hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault, costing him his job and any chance of being elected president of France.

New York police arrested Strauss-Kahn a year ago when hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo accused him of forcible oral sex and trying to rape her in his luxury suite at the Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan.

Strauss-Kahn denied the allegations, saying the sexual encounter with Diallo was consensual. Prosecutors later dropped the charges after losing confidence in Diallo’s credibility.

Diallo nonetheless sued Strauss-Kahn for unspecified damages in Supreme Court in the New York City borough of the Bronx, where she lived at the time.

The countersuit was filed on Monday on the anniversary of the incident and a day before Francois Hollande – the Socialist who took the nomination that Strauss-Kahn was once favored to win – was sworn in as president of France.

Strauss-Kahn denies all wrongdoing in the countersuit and accuses Diallo of “knowingly and intentionally making a false report to law enforcement authorities.”

“Soon after she entered the room, Ms. Diallo and Mr. Strauss-Kahn engaged in mutually consensual acts,” the claim states. “No violence, force or coercion attended their sexual encounter, and Ms. Diallo suffered no injuries whatsoever.”

The former international financier seeks damages for his arrest, which included jail time at New York’s Rikers Island and house arrest in an upscale Manhattan neighborhood; for losing his job as managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and for harm to his reputation.

The countersuit seeks at least $1 million in damages plus an undetermined amount of punitive damages. Diallo, a single mother who immigrated from Guinea, has not worked since the incident due to a shoulder injury she claims she sustained during the encounter with Strauss-Kahn, said one of her lawyers, Douglas Wigdor.

“The counterclaims have no basis in fact and were done solely for public relations,” he said.

Strauss-Kahn’s court filing comes two weeks after Bronx Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon rejected his motion to throw out Diallo’s civil lawsuit on the grounds he had diplomatic immunity at the time of the incident.

The countersuit cites claims by prosecutors that Diallo proved to be an unreliable witness, after they concluded she had lied about her past and offered varying accounts of her behavior in the moments that followed the incident.

“It should come as no surprise that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is asserting claims against Ms. Diallo for her false allegations against him,” one of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, William Taylor, said in a statement. “She is directly responsible for his being arrested, imprisoned, and subjected to extraordinary pain, anguish and expense.”

Strauss-Kahn’s legal troubles have persisted since his return to France after the dismissal of the criminal case. In March, French authorities announced he was under formal investigation in connection with a prostitution ring in the northern city of Lille.

His French lawyers have accused authorities of harassing Strauss-Kahn for his “libertine ways” and denied he committed any criminal acts.

Police question Strauss-Kahn in French assault case


UPDATE: [1:10 p.m.] Strauss-Kahn was immune from civil suit under international law when suit was filed, his lawyers say.

Monday, Sept. 12
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was questioned by French police on Monday over a complaint of attempted rape, filed after his May arrest in New York in a separate sex assault case that forced him to resign but was later dropped.

Tristane Banon, a journalist and writer some 30 years his junior, says Strauss-Kahn assaulted her in 2003 in a Paris apartment where he had invited her to interview him for a book she was writing.

The former IMF chief, once seen as a favorite to challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency, returned to France after U.S. prosecutors dropped charges last month that he tried to rape a hotel maid.

He was questioned by Paris police for about three hours before leaving the station around 0900 (GMT) in a car without making any comment to journalists.

His French lawyers said in a statement that Strauss-Kahn, who has yet to make any public comment since returning to his Paris home, had asked to be heard by police as soon as scheduling allowed.

Other high profile witnesses, including Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, have been questioned by police in the case to determine whether they had any knowledge of Banon’s allegations.

One issue is whether her allegations against Strauss-Kahn amount to attempted rape or sexual assault. In France the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases is three years, versus ten years for attempted rape.

Reporting by Nicolas Bertin and Thierry Leveque; Writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Peter Graff

Strauss-Kahn is released from house arrest as case weakens


Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest on Friday as the sexual assault case against him moved one step closer to dismissal after prosecutors told a Manhattan judge that they had serious problems with the case.

Prosecutors acknowledged that there were significant credibility issues with the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in May. In a brief hearing at State Supreme Court in Manhattan, prosecutors did not oppose his release; the judge then freed Mr. Strauss-Kahn on his own recognizance.

The development represented a stunning reversal in a case that reshaped the French political landscape and sparked debate about morals, the treatment of women and the American justice system. The case could also alter the political fortunes of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, who is just a year and a half into his tenure and was facing his most highly publicized case to date.

Read more at NYTimes.com.

Opinion: Groping in the Dark


The swirl of news about the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) former managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was accused recently of sexually assaulting a chambermaid in his expensive Sofitel hotel suite, contains another juicy nugget of information. Strauss-Kahn is Jewish. His wife is Jewish. In fact, Strauss-Kahn was born, like many French Jews, to a Sephardic mother from Tunisia. He participates in public Jewish life. He does not hide his Jewishness. Should we?

Well, that’s what many people right now would like to do. When we read about a Jew connected to a public exploit of a criminal nature — be it a rape, Ponzi scheme or Medicare fraud — most of us cringe and wish we somehow weren’t ethnically or genetically connected. When breaking news of crime is exposed, our knee-jerk impulse is to pray that whoever is involved isn’t Jewish.

Sadly, in the past few years, we have become used to seeing more Jews exposed for white-collar crimes in the news. And in some pathetic and ironic way, we’ve managed to unify Jews under the same banner — from Reform to Satmar Chasidim, Syrians and Ashkenazim, Jews from Chicago and Jews from Australia. What has brought us together? Crime. How else to explain a joke that took a spin in cyberspace recently: “The Top 10 Signs Your Rabbi Was Indicted.” These included, 1) your synagogue charity auction now includes “kidney,” 2) your rebbetzin is suddenly on JDate, and 3) the rabbi’s sermon comes in the form of an affidavit.

But if you have nothing to do with Strauss-Kahn, Bernard Madoff or any other member of the criminal glitterati other than share a religion, why should you care?

We do care, and we care for the same reason that when a Jew wins a Nobel Peace Prize, we take just a smidgen of credit for it, and when a popular celebrity announces he or she is Jewish, we stand a little taller. We are connected by a mysterious bond called peoplehood, a psychic sense that we are part of an extended family with deep historical roots and a moral and spiritual vision. This is not something we give explicit voice to, but it is something many of us feel deep down in our kishkes (gut).

It’s the quiet nod of recognition we give to a woman in a grocery checkout line with a Star of David around her neck. It is the subtle intimacy we experience as a minority people who are experts at the world’s most boring game: Jewish geography. We play it because six degrees of separation is way too many. Six one-hundredths is a lot more comfortable. After all, it’s a hostile world out there. You need to know who your family is.

Yet, just like we’re not proud of every member of our family, we put up with those criminal few (yes, it is only a few) who need to zip up their pants, get a better accountant or have a time-out from Wall Street. The downside of peoplehood is that just like we may feel psychically connected to strangers merely because they are Jewish, we are also connected to Jews who commit crimes in the public eye.

The ancient rabbis shared this worry and created the term ma’arit ayin (literally, what the eye sees) to help people model moral excellence everywhere lest others observe spiritually contradictory behaviors and assign them to the Jewish people as a whole. This falls under a larger legal rubric of Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name. When a Jew in the public eye is morally upstanding, we all bask in his or her light. When a Jew in the public eye tries to rape a woman who is powerless, we squirm.

This is not the same as the Yiddish expression, a shandah for the goyim. When we adjust our behavior because of self-conscious modeling, we do so for the sake of righteousness and goodness. When we worry about being a shandah for the goyim, we care less about what we do and more about what we look like. It’s like being caught in a perp walk but worried that you forgot to put on lipstick. It’s an ethically superficial way of moving in the universe.

Are these just isolated cases of a few Jews gone bad or are they symptomatic of something much darker that we’re not willing to confront? I’d like to believe the former. I’d like to believe that Jewish affluence and influence in the world has presented us with new/old challenges. If we want to make a difference on the global stage, be it in economics, research or politics, then we must move with the ancient weight of Isaiah’s teachings, “Learn to do good.” Goodness is not assumed. It is taught. It must be taught and reinforced in our synagogues and schools and adult education programs. It is not a given.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Jewishness may not have even crossed his mind as he acted, but his Judaism was not something detached from his identity when others reported his alleged crime. We, the Jewish public, all pay some small psychic cost in pride for the acts of strangers. It’s the price we pay for being in the same family, whether we want to or not. If it is the label others give us, then perhaps it’s time to have a difficult family conversation about raising the ethical bar. After all, when it comes to the reputation of the Jewish people, we’re all stakeholders.

Erica Brown serves as the scholar-in-residence for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Her latest book is “In the Narrow Places” (OU/Maggid). She also wrote “Confronting Scandal” (Jewish Lights) and can be reached at leadingwithmeaning.com.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigns from IMF


Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as managing director of the International Monetary Fund following his arrest and imprisonment on charges of sexual assault.

In a statement dated Wednesday on the IMF website, the popular left-leaning political figure expected to run for French president in 2012 said, “it is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation from my post of Managing Director of the IMF.”

Strauss-Kahn was taken off of a Paris-bound flight at Kennedy International Airport on May 14, and arrested on charges of assaulting a maid in his New York City hotel room that day.

In the statement, Strauss-Kahn said, “I think at this time first of my wife—whom I love more than anything—of my children, of my family, of my friends.”

He also claimed his innocence.

“I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me. I want to protect this institution which I have served with honor and devotion, and especially—especially—I want to devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence,” said the statement.

Recent polls repeatedly showed that Strauss-Kahn was considered more popular than current French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and the most likely opponent to unseat him in the next election.  Bloggers and pundits even mused on the fact that France might be led by a Jewish president, if Strauss-Kahn were voted into office.

John Lipsky remains acting managing director of the IMF, while speculation continues on a possible replacement. Finance minister to Sarkozy, Christine Lagarde, is a favored contender. She is the former head of the Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, and lived in the United States for over 20 years. Stanley Fisher, governor of the Bank of Israel, has also been suggested.

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