I”m a little behind on my reading, so I only just became aware of the New York Review of Books piece speculating on what may or may not have been a conspiracy against Dominic Strauss-Kahn. In convoluted detail, Edward Jay Epstein insinuates a plot that makes the wildest Kennedy assassination conspiracy seem plausible. By all means read the original. But I’ve gone ahead and written a little synopsis below, and tried to clarify a point or two. Enjoy.
What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn?
Was the IMF head merely the victim of a licentious and vindictive hotel maid? Or was he the target of an international conspiracy? And what about his BlackBerry?
May 14, 2011 just wasn’t shaping up well for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the IMF and a contender to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France. A day that started out with a little light-hearted fun would end with charges of rape, and result in the indignity of an entire month under house arrest in a luxurious Manhattan townhouse.
It all had something to do with his Blackberry. Unnamed sources(1) say that Strauss-Kahn had been warned that Sarkozy’s operatives were reading his messages. Had his BlackBerry been compromised? Could Sarkozy be planning to use its contents to engineer a scandal? Rather than being a minor side issue in the events that followed, the Blackberry was obviously key to the whole business.
But about that alleged sexual assault. The trouble began when Strauss-Kahn (I’ll call him DSK from now on to save typing) was stepping out of the shower prior to checking out of the Sofitel Hotel. We know from electronic key records that Nafissatou Diallo, a maid, had entered his room between 12:06 and 12:07, and from phone records that DSK was speaking to his daughter on his BlackBerry by 12:13PM.
What took place in those six to seven intervening minutes is a matter of dispute. Diallo says that DSK sexually assaulted her and forced her to perform oral sex. DSK at first denied that any sexual encounter occurred. Faced with DNA evidence he remembered that, wait a minute, yes, there had been a sexual encounter, but it was consensual. In fact it may have been that Diallo, filled with passion at the sight of his 62-year-old penis, had actually seduced him!
Whatever happened in that room, at 12:28 PM the hotel security cameras show DSK departing to have lunch with his daughter, and the restaurant camera shows that he arrived at 12:54. At 2:15 DSK got in a taxi to go to the airport.(2) Almost immediately, he discovered that his BlackBerry was missing.
In the meantime John Sheehan, director of safety for Sofitel’s parent company Accor, was driving to the hotel and, according to his phone records, called a number with a 646 prefix. What was this mysterious number? Relying on years of investigative experience, I dialed it. A man with a heavy French accent answered and told me it was Accor.
Why would an employee call his company office? Could it have been to inform his supervisor of the situation? To check for messages? To cancel an appointment? Or could there be a more nefarious reason? What we do know is that at that very moment René-Georges Querry, Sheehan’s ultimate superior at Accor, was arriving at a soccer match in Paris where he would be seated in the box of … President Sarkozy!(3)
Back at the hotel, Diallo (remember her?) has reported the alleged assault, and the police are called at 1:31. There is so far no explanation for why hotel employees delayed the call that would lead to a scandal involving the possible future president of France. It is not even clear that they cared about French politics. What is clear is that they made the call just three minutes after receiving a message from Sheehan. We do not know whether the message was, Call the police already, you idiots!
What we do know is that immediately after the police are called, two men leave the hotel’s security office, high-five each other, and break into what appears to have been the Electric Slide. Then they transition into what was almost certainly the Funky Chicken. From 1:33 to 1:34 they do the Boogaloo. Finally, they seem to have begun the Beguine, a dance once popular in France!
Charges were eventually dropped against DSK because prosecutors said Diallo had proven to be an untruthful witness. She told them she had not entered any other room after the attack, when in fact key records showed that she had entered Room 2820. It is not clear why a maid who goes in and out of hotel rooms all day long would not, after a traumatic sexual assault, remember the completely inconsequential act of having gone into another one.
The electronic key record contained another unexplained anomaly. At 12:05 a key card belonging to an employee whose job it was to retrieve room service trays was used to enter DSK’s suite. The employee, according to his account, entered the suite to retrieve a room service tray. What reason could he possibly have had? Neither do we know when he left the room (he says immediately), or if he was perhaps in the room at the time of Diallo’s encounter with DSK (he says no). Perhaps he was hiding under the bed, or behind the drapes. For all we know from the key card records, he may still be there.
DSK’s BlackBerry is still missing, and records show that its GPS circuitry was disabled at 12:51, which my unnamed expert says would have required detailed technical knowledge. At the very least, turning off GPS would require a person to go to Google, search for “Disable Blackberry GPS,” and then follow a complex process involving choosing the “Disable GPS” option on the phone’s menu system. Who, with the possible exception of a French intelligence operative under direct orders from Sarkozy, would be capable of this technological feat?
Meanwhile, several mysteries remain. Was there anyone in room 2820 besides Diallo during and after the encounter with DSK? Was there more than one anyone? Were there a dozen or more mystery figures, and if so, was one of them Leonardo DiCaprio? One thing is clear: we do not know for certain that Leonardo DiCaprio was not in that hotel room that day.
A final question must be asked. Will I be able to convince my editor that this collection of random facts strung together by insinuating questions is in fact a piece of investigative journalism? Actually, that one we know the answer to.
1 These statements were confirmed by sources who prefer to remain anonymous. They may or may not consist entirely of DSK’s defense team, feeding me selective information they obtained from the prosecutor during discovery.
2 I can be so precise because these surveillance tapes have this little time thingy in the corner. Want to know when the salads arrived? 1:20PM. The bill? 1:54. Of course I could have simply said that DSK had lunch with his daughter and then caught a cab. But the precision about ultimately unimportant details allows me to give the impression that I’m building a carefully constructed theory of what happened, and it fills space.
3 See how it’s all beginning to fit together!