The maid who accused former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault has now become the focus of attention, vilified by backers of the Frenchman and seen as a tragic figure by her supporters.
Guinean immigrant Nafissatou Diallo has filed a civil case against the French politician over the alleged attack in his luxury Manhattan hotel room. This gives Diallo one more shot in court, despite the collapse of criminal charges largely because of problems with her own credibility.
However, the single mother of a 15-year-old daughter could soon find herself in serious trouble.
Among the risks facing her is expulsion from the US, following revelations that she lied on her asylum application. She could also face a counter-suit from Strauss-Kahn for damaging his reputation, or she could simply lose her job at the Sofitel where the whole sordid affair began on May 14.
“Nafissatou Diallo is very upset, but determined to press ahead and prove to the world that she was assaulted by Strauss-Kahn,” her lawyer Douglas Wigdor said.
On Wednesday, Wigdor denounced suggestions that Diallo might herself be sued as “intimidation tactics” by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers.
In another sign of her changing fortunes, the New York Post, which was initially highly critical of Strauss-Kahn, said in an editorial that Diallo is “no longer welcome” in the country.
“Nafissatou Diallo needs to be on an airplane back to her native Guinea as soon as the paperwork can be completed,” the tabloid said. “She has no one to blame but herself.”
Benjamin Brafman, the high-priced attorney spearheading Strauss-Kahn’s defense, described Diallo as “either evil or pathetic or both” and suggested that unnamed “others” could have been using her for their own purposes.
It also remained unclear whether she would be able to return to her job at the luxury Sofitel, part of the French hotel chain Accor, where she was considered a model employee before the incident in May.
Even some in the US Guinean community have turned their backs on Diallo, with one member telling the New York Times that she had been ostracized for being “an unlucky woman.”
Her supporters see a woman betrayed.
Prosecutors say they simply could not pursue their plans to put Strauss-Kahn on trial because the maid, whose testimony was central to the case, kept lying.
However, the maid’s lawyer Kenneth Thompson said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had “abandoned an innocent woman.”
Women’s rights groups have also rallied around Diallo, demonstrating in support of her at the courthouse.
On Thursday, Thompson said that “Ms Diallo is simply devastated by the unfairness.”
Meanwhile, new IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said on Friday that an upcoming visit to IMF headquarters by her -predecessor would be “a sort of reconciliation.”
“Dominique Strauss-Kahn asked to meet his former colleagues, and any staff members who wish to [see him], in order to simply say goodbye and to have, I suppose, a sort of reconciliation before leaving the United States,” Lagarde said on French television.
“All former directors of the IMF can come to the IMF,” the former French finance minister added.
Lagarde did not indicate whether she herself would meet Strauss-Kahn during his visit next week. She did have a telephone conversation with him after being nominated to succeed him at the Washington-based global financial institution.