Reporting Tony Aiello
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – She’s telling the truth. That was the message Tuesday from attorney David Shapiro.
He’s representing the woman accusing International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sex assault. Shapiro said the life of the single mother has been turned upside down and will never be the same, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
She works in an upscale Midtown hotel — just six miles south, but still a world away, from her modest Bronx apartment where neighbors found her friendly but reserved.
“Her demeanor is that of a very private person,” a neighbor said.
She’s trying to stay in the shadows as the world media spotlight glares on Strauss-Kahn, accused of raping the 32-year-old woman and now, according to sources, on suicide watch as a precaution on Rikers Island.
The alleged victim told authorities that she thought Strauss-Kahn’s suite at Sofitel New York was empty when she went in to clean it Saturday afternoon but that he emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway, pulled her into a bedroom and dragged her into a bathroom, police said.
He grabbed her breasts, tried to pull down her pantyhose, grabbed at her crotch and forced her to perform oral sex, according to a court complaint. She broke free, escaped the room and told hotel staffers what had happened, authorities said. She was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.
“This has been nothing short of a cataclysmic event in this woman’s life,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said the alleged victim is a Muslim who left Guinea — in West Africa — to make a better life in New York for her daughter. He rejected speculation in French media that she’s part of a plot to bring down Strauss-Kahn, a leading contender for the French presidency — until his arrest.
“That’s absolutely not true. She had no idea who that man was. She’s not part of any conspiracy,” Shapiro said.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said it’s clearly time for Strauss-Kahn to step down, reports CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez.
“He’s obviously not in a position to run the IMF and I think it’s important that the board at the IMF formally put in place for an interim period somebody to act as managing director,” Geithner said.
The prosecutor said the hotel maid has provided a “powerful” and consistent account of the alleged assault.
“When someone is telling the truth, they tell a consistent story because there’s just one version,” Shapiro said.
According to the alleged victim’s brother, she called him about an hour after the alleged attack and said “something bad just happened.”
“Imagine if this was your sister,” he told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “It brings tears to our eyes.”
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg with alleged victim’s brother
The woman accusing the IMF chief is devastated and wonders “why did this happen to me,” the alleged victim’s brother said.
A manager of a Harlem restaurant, the brother asked his name be withheld for fear it would identify his sister.
The victim’s cousin told Aiello she didn’t even realize Strauss-Kahn was prominent until she saw media coverage Sunday night.
“She’s definitely scared. She’s a victim and now she’s trying to recover,” the cousin said. “She’s a really decent woman, very polite and correct. She’s a victim and justice must be served.”
Her brother said she doesn’t follow international politics and couldn’t even tell you who the mayor of New York City is.
The alleged victim’s lawyer also echoed those sentiments, saying “she didn’t find out who he was or who he purported to be until some days after this took place.”
“She’s a hard-working lady. That’s what she was there for, there working doing her job. There’s no connection whatsoever, so as far as a conspiracy theory is concerned. It’s a dead issue,” friend Abraham Fofanah added.
Shapiro said the alleged victim is struggling with the aftermath of a terrible assault.
“That’s something which burns yourself into your subconscious and your psyche which you live with for many, many years,” Shapiro said.
Attorney Benjamin Brafman said defense lawyers believe the forensic evidence “will not be consistent with a forcible encounter.” Defense lawyers wouldn’t elaborate, but Brafman said “there are significant issues that were already found” that make it “quite likely that he will be ultimately be exonerated.”
Strauss-Kahn’s high-profile defense team has suggested that the encounter may have been consensual or part of some elaborate set-up but the alleged victim’s brother said his sister “is not that type of woman.”
“The simplest defense is to try to blame the victim, but she is the victim. There was nothing about this encounter which in any way can be construed as consensual. And there is nothing about this encounter that can construed in any way except a violent, physical, sexual assault,” Shapiro said.
The maid’s brother said she is scared and is under police protection at an undisclosed location.
“Now she’s trying to recover moment by moment,” he said.
The woman’s brother said he cannot understand how someone of Strauss-Kahn’s stature could do something like this.
“If this was Europe — he’d get away with this.” he said. “This is America, justice will be served. I know it.”
Strauss- Kahn pleaded not guilty Monday to charges which include attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. He is being held in protective custody on Rikers Island at least until a court proceeding Friday.
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