NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed on Monday to postpone the next court date in the sexual assault case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn to give both sides more time to investigate.
The delay to August 1 from July 18 was announced in a letter to the judge on Monday and in separate statements from prosecutors and Strauss-Kahn’s defense team.
Defense lawyers again urged a dismissal of the charges — a possibility that has been anticipated since prosecutors revealed problems with the credibility of the accuser, a 32-year-old immigrant from Guinea.
“We hope that during this time the District Attorney will make the necessary decision to dismiss the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn,” defense lawyers Benjamin Brafman and William Taylor said in a statement.
Prosecutors cautioned against reading too much into the delay.
“The investigation into this case is continuing. No decisions have been made,” Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, said in a statement.
Outside experts also warned against drawing conclusions from the delay.
High-profile New York criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel, who is not involved in the Strauss-Kahn case, said there was nothing unusual about such an adjournment in the middle of an investigation.
However, he said the two sides could still be heading toward “an irreconcilable stalemate” in which Strauss-Kahn is steadfastly denying the charges and the prosecution wants to take the case to trial.
“We have been watching the pendulum swing ... and now it has probably come back to the center and we must be patient and wait for the decision,” Shargel said.
Three possibilities remain for the case — it could go to trial, the charges could be dismissed or Strauss-Kahn could plead guilty to a minor charge.
“I really do take this at face value,” said Daniel Richman, a law professor at Columbia University and a former federal prosecutor. “It’s clear that both sides are seriously pursuing all leads, and from the prosecution’s perspective, if they want to go forward, they want their case as strong as possible, and if they don’t want to go forward, they want to make sure they’ve worked hard and turned over every stone.”
After initially portraying the accuser as woman who gave convincing and consistent accounts of the purported assault in a luxury hotel suite, prosecutors later revealed her credibility was thrown into question.
She told authorities several lies about her past, including fabricating a story about being gang-raped in Guinea in order to gain U.S. asylum. She also changed details of her story about what happened following the purported assault.
According to lawyers for the accuser, prosecutors also said they had turned up a recorded conversation between her and a man detained in an Arizona jail in which she said words to the effect that “this guy has a lot of money. I know what I am doing.”
The case shocked the world on May 14 with the woman’s allegation that the globe-trotting steward of the international economy and French presidential hopeful had emerged naked from the bathroom of his luxury suite on May 14, chased her around the suite and forced her to perform oral sex.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, had vehemently declared his innocence, and some political supporters in France have been convinced that he was set up.
Until his arrest, Strauss-Kahn had been seen as the French Socialists’s best chance of unseating President Nicolas Sarkozy in next April’s presidential election.
Strauss-Kahn also still faces a complaint from a French writer who said he tried to rape her during a 2003 interview and the possibility that the New York accuser will file a civil lawsuit against him.
He resigned from the IMF four days after his arrest.
Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Sandra Maler