Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Update on the Accuser's AZ Prison Telephone Call

Yesterday I wrote at length on details not adding up about the recorded phone call between Dominique Strauss-Kahn's accuser and her boyfriend/fiance/husband in the Arizona immigration jail on May 15, the day after the encounter at the Sofitel Hotel. The call was first reported by The New York Times.

When the conversation was translated — a job completed only this Wednesday — investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” the official said.

The Wall St. Journal has new details on the phone call , all coming from the prosecution and law enforcement. The article was written after the writer spoke with lead prosecutor Joan Iluzzi-Orbon. The new disclosures make even less sense. [More...]

  • The inmate is in a federal immigration facility in Arizona (as opposed to a county jail with an immigration section).
  • He was arrested for allegedly trying to sell marijuana to undercover officers in Arizona (earlier reports in the New York Times said he was trying to barter counterfeit designer goods from Chinatown for marijuana, which would mean he was trying to buy, not sell, marijuana. Also, earlier reports didn't say where he was arrested, only that it was in the Southwest and he was currently detained in Arizona.)
  • She called the inmate the day after the attack using a second cell phone in her possession (Earlier reports were that when confronted with the information about payments from her bank account for five different phones, she denied the phones were her's or that she had made the payments, and said the inmate/boyfriend and his friends were responsible.)
    Even the phone the maid used to make the call was problematic for her credibility. The woman initially said she had only one phone. Early last week, she told investigators that she had a second cellphone she used to call the inmate in Arizona because it was a local number and was cheaper, according to law-enforcement officials.

As I wrote yesterday, there are five ICE detention facilities in Arizona. None of them allow inmates to receive incoming calls. Their policy manuals state:

Calling a Detainee

Detainees cannot receive incoming calls. If you need to get in touch with a detainee to leave an urgent message, you must call (520) ***** and leave the detainee’s full name, alien registration number and your name and telephone number where you can be reached. The detainee will be given your message.

The Times says the phone call first came to light after investigators received information about a call between the inmate and a second man, a week after the encounter:

Suspicions of the woman’s associations arose relatively quickly: within a week of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, the authorities learned of a recorded conversation between the subject of a drug investigation and another man, who said his companion was the woman involved in the Strauss-Kahn matter, according to another law enforcement official.

The Times reported it was the second phone call that led them to the earlier call between the accuser and the inmate. But according to John Solomon at the Daily Beast, whose sources are also law enforcement, prosecutors started checking the call records on the other phones in the accuser's name and came across the call to the detention facility.

[I]nvestigators in the prosecutor's office also began following a financial trail that linked the woman to suspected criminal elements in the drug world. They found several phones in the woman's name that she hadn't told them about as well as tens of thousands of dollars in suspicious deposits into her banking accounts, one source said.

The investigators began checking calls on those other phones, and eventually found that the woman, the day after the alleged attack, had made a call to a detention center in Arizona where one of her male acquaintances was being held on drug charges, according to the sources.

She could have called the detention facility and left a message for her inmate acquaintance to call her back. Collect calls from prisons are outrageously expensive, so it's possible she had a phone with an AZ area code so he could call her collect and that it's cheaper if it's not long distance. But, since she was in protective custody when she made the call on May 15, she must have had the phone on her.

It sounds to me like she also had the phone on her during the hotel encounter, and that the reason she re-entered the nearby suite afterward, when she had already cleaned it, was for privacy to make the call to AZ and leave a message for the inmate to call her. It probably wasn't until the next day, May 15, that he got her message and called her back and they had the discussion about DSK being rich and that she knew what she was doing. She had already spoken with her friend Blake Diallo of the 2115 Cafe by this time, and he had already hooked her up with lawyer Jeffrey Shapiro, having found him on the Internet. It sure sounds like she had dollar signs in her eyes the whole time.

As I wrote yesterday, a French newspaper reports the inmate is from Gambia, and they were married in a religious (but not civil) ceremony last year. Who is he? When was he arrested? It's unlikely he could have arranged bank deposits and new phone purchases from a detention facility, so he must have been arrested fairly recently before May 14, the date of the DSK encounter. Who were his friends that the accuser claimed to prosecutors were in the bank and phone scam?

I wonder if the inmate really is facing criminal charges. There's no reports of a similar arrest during 2011 that I could find. I'm not sure how it works in AZ, but here, federal defendants aren't moved to ICE custody until after their case is over and they've finished serving their sentence. ICE puts immigration holds on federal prisoners, and those who are subject to removal are held in the same pre-trial detention facilities as all other federal pre-trial detainees. The only way you'd get to an ICE facility before trial is if you managed to have bond set and posted it, and ICE steps in and files a detainer or physically shows up at the federal facility to grab you before they let you walk out the door.

If he is from Gambia, there's another wrinkle. Gambia's president announced last year the country would not cooperate with ICE and issue emergency passports to its citizens the U.S. wanted to deport. Which means, I think, that Gambians in immigration custody can't be deported back to Gambia, so the U.S. needs to find a third country willing to accept them. Nor can they be held here in indefinite detention, so if no criminal charges are pending, it seems to me eventually the inmate will be released, either on some kind of immigration bond or with orders to stay in touch. (Immigration law is so confusing I'm not entirely sure about this.)

French news reports say the accuser worked at a Gambian restaurant in the Bronx when she met this guy. She then got the job at the Sofitel and quit, according to an interview with the restaurant's owner. Did the inmate get her the job at Sofitel? And why has nothing leaked about his identity? Is he cooperating with the feds on the Chinatown counterfeit goods scam and trying to protect his identity? (Added: It's doubtful he helped her with her asylum application since that was back in 2004.)

The phone call was apparently the last straw for prosecutors, according to some reports. Lead prosecutor Joan Iluzzi-Orbon tells the Wall St. Journal:

"There are things that are concerning regarding the phone call," said Ms. Illuzi-Orbon, who declined to discuss its contents. "I had concerns."

I don't think there's any more investigating the DA's office can do as to the truth of the sexual assault allegations. It's her word against his, she has lied, and he has remained silent, other than to deny a forcible encounter. I suspect the reason the DA hasn't yet dismissed the charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn is because they are still investigating the accuser, and it's opened a big can of worms. And a lot of problems for her and her associates, whoever they are.

I'm convinced the DA's office will dismiss the charges against DSK, probably before July 18, the date of his next appearance. They probably want to do it in a nice, tidy way, with an explanation of why the accuser is or is not being charged for lying on her asylum application or to the grand jury. And that's the part they haven't figured out yet.

Update: The French and African papers reported on May 25 and May 26 that the accuser had remarried a man from Gambia. The African paper, Walf Fadjri, sent reporters to interview her mother, now living in Ziguinchor in Senegal (coincidentally, where Blake Diallo is reportedly from.) Her mother said she remarried the man from Gambia last year at a ceremony in the very house she was being interviewed in, which belongs to her sister. I'm not linking since it publishes the accuser's name.

The French paper, Le Figaro, (english version without accuser's name here) sent reporters to New York to interview people in the Guinean community.

Julien Baba Sylla, a telecommunications engineer who introduces himself to us as the leader of New York's Guinean community, which counts some 5000 people in total, gives us a lift in his Ford Expedition. He says the grocery owner had become like a big sister to the alleged victim. The two woman talked to each other in a mixture of Bambara and French.

...But she has already told some important information to Julien Sylla, which contradicts one point about the alleged victim: she is married, not a widow as has been widely reported. Her husband is still living in the U.S., but not with her, and may have had trouble with the law.

The French paper, leJDD.fr, reported yesterday the Arizona inmate is the accuser's Gambian husband, along with the other details I wrote about him yesterday, with the exception that it reported the couple hadn't gone to Africa to celebrate the marriage.

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    another wrinkle? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by ZtoA on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 06:17:55 PM EST
    I assume this will not impact the case here in the US, but am not sure.

    A journalist/author in France is going to file sexual assault charges in France tomorrow, Tuesday.

    She is the daughter of Anne Mansouret, a regional councillor in Upper Normandy, and god-daughter of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's second wife Brigitte Guillemette. She was also a close friend of one of Mr Strauss-Kahn's daughters, Camille.

    in the US case, many French people believe Mr Strauss-Kahn was the victim of an elaborate political plot - perhaps due to his financial role, perhaps due to his presidential ambitions back home. But given that Miss Banon comes from the bosom of the French Socialist family, it may be harder for DSK's lawyers to suggest she is seeking to ruin him politically.


    Her mother advised her not to file charges when the assault happened and now regrets it.

    it's been all over the news and (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 06:37:58 PM EST
    has no bearing on the topic of this post. Please keep comments to the topic. There's open threads to discuss other issues. Thanks.

    sorry, i believe you're incorrect (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by cpinva on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 11:00:13 PM EST
    in your characterization of this related action. it goes to the heart of DSK's credibility, and is certaintly more pertinent to the actual case at hand, the allegations of sexual misconduct by him in the US, then does the allegations of some weird, grade-b movie plot alleged scam by the hotel maid.

    it potentially (and how many others will start coming out of the woodwork?) establishes a pattern, by mr. DSK, of just this sort of activity. if that isn't relevant, nothing is.

    at least we now know how the the NY authorities learned of the existence of the recorded phone conversation.

    one mystery at a time.


    this post is about the AZ inmate and (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 11:06:25 PM EST
    phone call, which I spent several hours researching and writing. Please comment on DSK and other accusers elsewhere. It has no bearing on the phone call.

    And no, we don't know how they learned of the phone call. There are two different versions.


    It grieves me so much (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by oculus on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 09:08:43 PM EST
    information irrelevant to whether the alleges sexual assault occurred is currently in the public domain  such as: no. of cell phones, content of asylum application, and purported content of victim's telephone conversation with a third party.

    and I'm not interested (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 11:16:02 PM EST
    in playing jury and deciding who's telling the truth about what happened in the room. I'm interested in the legal aspects of the case, the rush to indictment, attempt to deny bail, and  failure to conduct an adequate inquiry into the accuser's background.

    There should be a corroboration requirement before someone can be arrested, paraded in front of the media, attempted to be denied bond, and lose their job.


    While I usually agree with you, TL, (none / 0) (#18)
    by scribe on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 09:18:22 AM EST
    I do differ on a couple issues here.

    Looking at this case as objectively as possible (I know, not very, but I'll do my best), I can understand the reasoning for the rush to indictment.  Look at it this way, from a non-defense perspective:
    a hotel maid reports she's been sexually assaulted by a rich, world-powerful man.  An initial look at the room by responding officers probably reveals fluids left behind.  At a minimum, the complainant's story is consistent enough to justify going forward.  A quick look by the responding detectives at the hotel registry indicates the alleged assaulter is heading for the airport.
    If he gets on the plane and it takes off, he's gone and he's never coming back.  In the usual experience of the NYPD, suspects who make the plane and takeoff land in the foreign country and either disappear, or disappear into the arms of their local authorities back home, and never come back to face US charges.  I can see a rich, powerful man like DSK being embraced by the Establishment of his home country enough that (a) he never comes back to face investigation or charges or(b) he can get enough political strings pulled to make the NYPD drop its investigation.  In any event, he never has to come back to the US because he can conduct his business from abroad and, if need be, get diplomatic immunity granted him before he does come back.
    So, you grab him off the plane on what the courts would call a well-founded suspicion of crime, enough to support a complaint that will get him sent to Rikers while the investigation continues.

    Doubtless Cy Vance's phone is ringing by the time the headlines are being set and the callers are personages in DC who are unhappy about the bust.  As lawyers say "you can never go wrong by obeying a court order".  In the criminal context, this leads to the prosecutor's corollary of "if we have an indictment, that's the word of 23 citizens - not me, and not the cops - deciding it's more likely than not a crime was committed and the defendant is the guy who did it."  You know and I know that an indictment can be obtained on the flimsiest of "evidence" - rank hearsay, untested opinions, emotion, plain old lies and deeply slanted presentations.  It may, in truth, be the single most unfair procedure in the entire court system.

    So, Vance's office runs to get an indictment as much to protect themselves as anything else.  And, because DSK has capable defense counsel and the presence of mind to shut up, and because Vance is DA (see the penultimate paragraphs, infra) they continue to investigate and turn over a rats' nest.  

    This may sound horribly prejudiced, but my experience tells me that recent immigrants from Africa  - both North and Sub-Sahara - and south Asia often tell stories with only a tenuous relation to anything resembling the truth.  They may be continuing the habits of the culture in their former countries of residence, where "law" is a nice concept, but self-serving stories the coin of the realm (particularly when dealing with the police), or they may have figured out that money can be made in this country by spinning a good yarn.  (If the NYP's story about her sideline is to be believed, as a hooker she'd be all about the money - it's a prerequisite for that job.) But years of interviewing all sorts of folks (as prospective clients and as witnesses) makes me quite cynical about the accuracy (or mere relation to reality) of their stories.  I can't tell you how many times I've had a prospective client or witness "forget" or elide ore straight up lie about some facts which are devastating to the case - I'm usually glad if I find out about them early on, rather than later.  The self-serving tendency only dies out when they get assimilated into our culture, which usually happens only once they discover they have something to lose by keeping the old ways.  I suspect the NYPD and prosecutors feel the same, only moreso.

    The hows and whys of the phone call are important, but what we should be grateful for is that the lies were uncovered early and what passes for a justice system not further demeaned by having to go through a trial only to find that these lies were the heart of the prosecution case.

    I mean, consider the alternative.  Imagine that Leslie Crocker Snyder had won the election for DA instead of Cy Vance.  Do you think for a minute she, who made her bones developing the sex crimes unit in the DA's office and then as a hanging judge, would have undercut a case like the one against DSK in the way that Vance's office did?  Those phone calls would likely never have been discovered, let alone disclosed.  And when it came out - as it would - it would have been a huge black eye for the justice system.

    This is an ugly mess, but I think it's turning out in a way that justice will ultimately be served.


    are you thinking (none / 0) (#1)
    by observed on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 05:34:07 PM EST
    The bf is a snitch? That could explain preferential treatment , right?

    What about (none / 0) (#3)
    by lentinel on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 06:24:36 PM EST

    "...forensic tests found unambiguous evidence of a sexual encounter between Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a French politician, and the woman..."

    She may have no credibility because of misstatements having to do with her application - but I would like to know what the person she was talking to in prison has to say about what she said about Strauss-Kahn being rich. Either she said that she set the guy up and was going to extort money from him, or she said that the guy had attacked her and she has found out that he is very wealthy and she is going to try to take him hook line and sinker.

    What I am feeling deep down is that she may have no credibility, but, for me, Strauss-Kahn doesn't either. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near him.

    he never denied an encounter (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 06:41:03 PM EST
    or consensual sex. He has denied it was forced.

    Yes. (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by lentinel on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 06:47:54 PM EST
    It happened.
    He denied it was forced.
    She says it was.
    She is of questionable credibility.
    He is of questionable credibility.

    And when you have a complainant (none / 0) (#19)
    by scribe on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 09:22:13 AM EST
    of questionable credibility and a defendant - who does not have to testify - of questionable credibility, there is no way a prosecution can expect to be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

    I agree. (none / 0) (#21)
    by lentinel on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 10:55:20 AM EST
    That is the problem.

    Watching the material unfold that discredits the credibility of the complainant, it seems that it is related to her attempts to gain asylum. Understandable.
    Fudging on income taxes. Not uncommon.

    The stuff with whether she cleaned a room before notifying authorities - to me is not a significant misrepresentation of fact - but it is a misrepresentation.

    The phone call thing is a big mess to me.
    What Jeralyn posted about the inmates not being able to receive phone calls... The cell phone(s)... I don't understand it. A mess.

    What she is reported to have said about Strauss-Kahn being rich is open to interpretation. I would wonder why they haven't interviews the person she is alleged to have spoken to.

    I also wonder why, if we is indeed a "hooker", is how she could be practicing her trade for three years without the hotel knowing anything about it. They vouched for her when this case first broke. I also wonder why no former "client" has been presented to confirm this allegation about her.

    All that having been said, the defense certainly has managed to dig up enough stuff from her past. I suppose that the prosecution feels that she wouldn't survive a cross-examination on the stand.

    As others have written, none of this relates to whether or not she was in fact assaulted. I wonder if the new case being brought by the French reporter in which she alleges assault could be used to discredit a defense by Strauss-Kahn about what a sweet guy he is.

    But as it stands, it looks as if the case will be dropped and DSK will be whisked away back to France where he faces an uncertain but probably extremely comfortable future.

    This whole episode has been another black eye for the mass media which is quick to use any event to bolster some other agenda. It also doesn't say much for law enforcement and the judicial system. Seeing him enjoying the life while being in supposed house arrest, while any ordinary citizen would be rotting in the Tombs turned my stomach.


    Assuming the truth of the allegation (none / 0) (#23)
    by scribe on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 11:51:16 AM EST
    that she was hooking on the side, there would have been no complaints from hotel management if she were kicking back a little to keep things copacetic.  I suspect, again, assuming the truth of the allegation, with her it would not have been an everyday thing, just the occasional catch as catch can.

    But one has to accept as a given that concierges in most big city hotels can point someone in the direction of adult entertainment.  It's their job to know everything about the city.  How far they go beyond "point" is another matter, sui generis, I guess.

    As to DSK (or, more generally, French guests), I can see the whole Francophone African Muslim thing being a seriously attractive twist to the action.


    Do let us all be careful about allegations (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by scribe on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 12:00:53 PM EST
    from the New York Post:  the maid has filed a defamation suit against it over the hooker allegations.

    After all is said and done, it remains Murdoch's Post, even when they manage to write in complete sentences.


    what about a third take on the (none / 0) (#7)
    by nycstray on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 06:49:03 PM EST
    phone call, she found out the guy was very wealthy and wasn't sure she stood a chance against his wealth and position? Perhaps she called the guy to tell him what happened, not to work a financial transaction? Wouldn't you call your B/F/H if you had been attacked?

    Given that DSK was staying in a $3,000 (none / 0) (#8)
    by Anne on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 09:06:03 PM EST
    a night suite, his wealth had to be a given, but I agree with you that it makes sense for someone who has been attacked to call her significant other; I can imagine a number of scenarios where what she is reported to have said to the inmate makes sense - and it doesn't have to implicate her in any kind of setup.  She could have told the inmate what happened, and that she was going to report it, he told her she was crazy to think a nobody like her would be believed over a powerful man like DSK - or that if she got the cops involved, they were going to end up putting the microscope on her - and she responded that she knew what she was doing.

    Seems to me that if you are someone involved in the drug trade or money-laundering or whatever the possibilities are, the last thing you do is call the cops and get them looking into your life - that just makes no sense to me.  Lots of women who are victims of crime never report them because they are afraid to have the law looking into their background - duh.  And if you have thousands of dollars in your bank account, why do you need to be scamming hotel guests?

    None of this makes any sense to me at all; I guess I haven't taken the stupid factor into account - that tends to loom large in a lot of these situations, so who knows?


    I have to wonder (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by nycstray on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 11:31:23 PM EST
     how accurate the translation reporting is.

    "She says words to the effect of, . . ."

    I see some wiggle room in there for interpretation. If I were in a position where I had to judge her, I would want better than "words to the effect".

    I was wondering why she was still working as a maid if she had 100K. Do we even know if that was her money?

    It's not making a whole lotta sense to me either.


    That phrase doesn't trouble me at all (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by sj on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 08:07:59 AM EST
    I have the equivalent issue sometimes just translating from Spanish.  Often a literal translation produces something a bit garbled especially when you throw in idiomatic use.  I've never used the term "words to the effect of..." but I will now.  What I've usually said is, for example, "the singer is basically saying that..."

    A non-literal translation doesn't necessarily mean there is wiggle room.


    I've run into that same issue (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by scribe on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 09:26:28 AM EST
    when translating from German to English.  I wind up saying "it's an idiom which roughly equates to" yadda yadda.

    I mean, a literal translation of "Es geht mir Scheissegal." would be "It goes me sh*t equal." when it really means "I don't give a sh*t."

    And that's just an easy one.  Translation is not an exact science by any means.


    Not to nitpick (none / 0) (#22)
    by Nemi on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 11:36:06 AM EST
    but don't you mean "Es/das ist [/du bist] mir scheißegal" ("it is [you are] me shit equal")? ;)

    Both usages are correct (none / 0) (#24)
    by scribe on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 11:54:09 AM EST
    but have a slightly different tone, and the choice of which to use depends on the context.

    So, maybe we're not (none / 0) (#26)
    by Nemi on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 04:30:12 PM EST
    talking about the same language, German?

    Anyway, all I wanted to try to point out was how translating from a foreign language, you can't always be sure that a minor misinterpretation doesn't lead to a major mistranslation.


    BTW having said that (none / 0) (#17)
    by sj on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 08:14:00 AM EST
    that doesn't necessarily assume an accurate translation.  However, the interested parties appear to be satisfied with it.  And, although I'm not an interested party, I am especially comfortable with the translation since it was the DA's office who became alarmed.  I believe they wouldn't have become alarmed if there was a real question about the meaning.

    but she had already (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 11:07:13 PM EST
    retained a lawyer.

    Which would be consistent with, "I know (none / 0) (#15)
    by Anne on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 06:54:57 AM EST
    what I'm doing," wouldn't it?

    I have to imagine that your standard position would be that retaining a lawyer isn't proof of guilt, regardless of which side of the whole thing someone is on - if anything, it's proof that someone is smart enough to know he or she is in unfamiliar territory and needs help navigating through it.

    Whether, in this case, she listened to her lawyer's advice, whatever that was, is a whole other subject.


    strange argument (none / 0) (#27)
    by markw on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 11:56:08 PM EST
    I've seen this argument before--that her criminal record and accumulation of wealth from scamming people previously makes it less likely that she is guilty this time, either because she doesn't want to call attention to her criminal activities or because she doesn't need the money.

    That's like saying somebody who has robbed 10 banks before couldn't possibly have robbed a bank again because he wouldn't want to call attention to his criminal ativity, and he has already stolen enough money not to need more!

    The accuser is a criminal scammer. She gets her way--asylum, low-income housing, low taxes, etc--by lying and scamming.  How could that fact possibly make it less likely that she would try to get her way (for example, via blackmail or a civil suit) by lying and scamming again?