Kent has noted an article discussing possible defenses for the illustrious Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the jet-setting Frenchman who for the moment heads the IMF, and who has been accused by New York authorities of attempting to rape a maid in his $3000 a night suite at a posh hotel.
Although I have been a lawyer for more than 30 years, I admit I'm slow to catch on. Not once does the article suggest that DSK just tell the truth; indeed, the word "truth" is completely absent. What gets discussed is what might sell, and how it might be made to sell. Whether the possible stories coincide with the reality of what happened appears to provoke zero interest either in the authors or anyone they interviewed.
The typical defense line, on those rare occasions when asked about this devil-may-care attiitude toward the truth, is to talk about something else: It's the government's burden; the state has all the resources; the Framers were more concerned with the abuse potentially bred by state power than with private misbehavior, no matter how serious.
And all that is true. But, as this case is in the process of teaching us, it's also cynical, dispiriting, an indulgence for dishonesty, and an invitation to injustice. Is this the best we can do?
Let's look at how the case has been unfolding. The first suggestion for a defense was alibi. DSK's lawyers told the press they were putting together a minute-by-minute reconstruction of their client's whereabouts at the critical times. This would show that DSK could not have been attempting to rape the maid -- indeed that he could not have been in the room -- at the time the maid claimed.
That lasted about a day. I haven't seen it since.
Then there was the suggestion that the encounter was a, quote, "honey trap." This is mostly, it seems, a sort of conspiracy theory spun by parts of the French press. The idea was that unnamed, sinister forces were out to ensnare DSK, who had been a leading candidate for President of France in next year's elections.
Now I don't know exactly what a "honey trap" is, and those spinning this theory tiptoe around getting too explicit, but it reminds me of that old defense favorite, the "perjury trap." A "perjury trap" consists of the defendant's lying, generally to exculpate himself, when asked discomfiting questions. The underlying idea is that the authorities are setting up an ambush by asking such questions. The notion that the defendant could foil the "perjury trap" by -- ready for this? -- telling the truth, or just invoking his right to say nothing, never seems to hove into view.
Not that it makes a lot of difference. For DSK, the "honey trap" seems to have followed the alibi quickly out the door.
So we're getting back to the more conventional sort of defense, namely, that, if there were sex at all, it was consensual. The maid says otherwise, according to her lawyer, but it's mostly a he-says-she-says sort of thing. Thus, as the article notes (emphasis added), "Any evidence that the woman...has a history of lying...would be fair game, and experts said his defense team will examine her background closely."
You don't have to be a genius to do the translation: Our millionaire defendant is going to spend a boatload to dig up as much dirt as possible on the insolent hotel maid. Whether and to what extent the dirt has any truth to it is not the point. Intimidation is the point.
And then there's the she's-doing-it-for-money theory. Under this account, the maid is accusing DSK in order to extract a fat civil setllement. Such a thing is, of course, at least theoretically possible. Similar episodes have happened before, and venality is not unknown in human life. The one thing absent from this theory, however, is even a ghost of case-specific evidence to support it. Still, to be fair, the story is far from over.
Lastly for the moment is the theory that DSK is a man of modesty and restraint -- not the sort who would have an eye out for a female half his age. Given DSK's reputation built up over the last few decades, however, I doubt we'll be hearing a lot about that one.
It's obviously too early to know how this is going to turn out. But my intuition is that the defense will become what modern defenses have so often become: Turn the defendant into a victim. Yes, DKS will spend plenty to dig up what he can on the maid (I would be astounded if that is not going on as I'm typing). But he'll spend at least as much on psychiatrists as plushly padded as his hotel room, psychiatrists who'll discover that he was "suffering" from a previously undiagnosed "syndrome." This "syndrome," combined with the "stress" of having to deal with the fragile world economy, DKS's "depression" over _____ (fill in anything you like), and a freak moment's "lapse in judgment" are to blame.
They're to blame, I tell you! Arrogance, bullying and a gargantuan sense of entitlement had zip to do with it.
Not for nothing did I title this entry, "A Smorgasbord of Lies." When our citizens read about legal experts blandly suggesting this yarn or that one to help the defendant beat the rap -- without a smidgen of regard for, or even a passing reference to, what the truth is -- what, exactly, do we expect them to make of us?