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Vance unmoved by call for his recusal from Strauss-Kahn case

By the CNN Wire Staff
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Recusal suggestions "wholly without merit," DA spokeswoman says
  • Attorneys for Strauss-Kahn said they had a "constructive meeting" with prosecutors
  • French prosecutors are reviewing a complaint in a separate case against Strauss-Kahn
  • Source: The accuser's attorney refused to let his client talk with prosecutors for weeks

New York (CNN) -- Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. will not recuse himself from prosecuting the case against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the attempted rape of a hotel housekeeper, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

"Any suggestion that this office should be recused is wholly without merit," Erin Duggan said in a statement.

The announcement came in response to the call earlier in the day from an attorney for the housekeeper.

"We make this request in order to protect the integrity of the prosecution of Mr. Stauss-Kahn, to ensure the victim's rights are not further prejudiced by deliberate acts seeking to undermine her credibility, to insulate your office from the appearance of conflict of interest, and to ensure that future victims of sex crimes, regardless of their backgrounds, are not dissuaded from coming forward," wrote Kenneth P. Thompson in a four-page letter to Vance.

Strauss-Kahn, 62. is accused of having attempted to rape the maid when she entered his suite at the Sofitel off Times Square on May 14 in order to clean it.

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Thompson said Vance's office "apparently has been responsible" for leaks to the news media "that were intended to discredit the victim's character and, perhaps most importantly, undermine her charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn."

He cited a telephone call he received June 30 from Chief Assistant District Attorney Daniel R. Alonso, informing him of the prosecutor's decision to turn over to the defense "certain false statements" that the victim had told investigators.

During the call, he said Alonso had told him about an audio recording obtained by the prosecution in which the alleged victim told an incarcerated person a day after the alleged attack "about the possible benefits" of pursuing charges against Strauss-Kahn.

"When I asked Mr. Alonso specifically about what the victim had allegedly said during that conversation, he stated that the victim said 'words to the effect' that 'this guy has a lot of money. I know what I'm doing.'"

Thompson said that Alonso then agreed to turn over a copy of the recording or allow him and the housekeeper to listen to it but, more than six days later, had failed to do so. "I am told by Mr. Alonso that the victim must now wait for the prosecutor's interpreter to prepare a complete transcript of it," Thompson wrote.

He went on to complain that, within a few hours of that call, the New York Times reported on the "alleged conversation with the incarcerated individual," in an article that cited "'two well-placed law enforcement officials.'"

Thompson said he believes those officials work for Vance.

The lawyer said he was troubled by the fact that, the following day, the newspaper ran another article about the alleged victim that described the reported conversation between the woman and the incarcerated individual. Thompson said the article used language similar to that which Alonso had used during their conversation.

"Such apparent leaks by members of your office is, without question, an abrogation of the duties and responsibilities of a prosecutor and will, unfortunately, have a chilling effect on other victims of sex crimes coming forward in the future for fear of reprisals from the office that is charged with protecting victims -- not discrediting them through orchestrated media campaigns," he wrote.

Thompson added that he was "truly saddened" to read the response of a "senior prosecutor" who was asked about a New York Post article that asked whether the victim was "turning tricks while at (a) hotel" after the alleged sexual assault and under the protection of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"I can't say with 100% certainty that it's not true," the "senior prosecutor" was quoted as saying.

"The fact that apparently a prosecutor in your office suggested that it might be true that the victim is a prostitute and had engaged in acts of prostitution while under the protection of your office is appalling," Thompson wrote.

He then pointed to what he said represents a potential conflict of interest that the prosecutor's office has in the case -- "the chief of your entire trial division is married to one of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers in this case." And he blamed the prosecution for failing to have alerted him before he learned of it from the news media. "As far as we know, this prosecutor is still assigned to the case and gives us great concern about whether your office can truly determine what is in the interest of justice."

Vance's spokeswoman's response did not address each of the concerns raised by Thompson. It said, "We strongly disagree with how the office and the work of the assistant district attorneys have been characterized."

Also Wednesday, attorneys for Strauss-Kahn said that the defense team had a "constructive meeting" with prosecutors, who maintained that they are not ready to drop sexual abuse and attempted rape charges even after questions were raised about the accuser's credibility.

"The investigative process is continuing, and no decisions have been made," said Manhattan District Attorney spokeswoman Erin Duggan.

The two-hour meeting came just days after prosecutors disclosed credibility issues regarding the hotel maid who accused Strauss-Kahn of sexually attacking her.

"We had a constructive meeting today with (Vance) and his colleagues," said a statement from

William W. Taylor III and Benjamin Brafman.

Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty in June to charges that prompted him to resign from his post as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Questions about the case surfaced last week when Vance indicated that the woman, 32, had been less than truthful with authorities about some aspects of her life and her whereabouts immediately after the alleged attack at the Sofitel hotel May 14.

Legal analysts suggest that prosecutors are looking for ways to salvage the case.

"Prosecutors correctly regard dismissal as complete humiliation and capitulation," said CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. "If they can get a guilty plea, even to a misdemeanor, that would be a slightly face-saving route out of this case.

"But it seems clear that the defense now very much has the upper hand," he added.

The developments in New York come as Strauss-Kahn faces separate accusations of attempted rape in France, which were filed in a complaint by French writer Tristane Banon.

A Strauss-Kahn lawyer in France said he has filed a counter-claim against Banon for "false declarations."

French prosecutors have received Banon's complaint, a spokeswoman for the office said, and it is currently "under consideration" to determine whether there is enough evidence to press charges.

Banon's mother, Socialist politician Anne Mansouret, said shortly after the housekeeper's accusations were splashed across front pages around the world that her daughter had been attacked by Strauss-Kahn in 2003 but that she had discouraged her at the time from filing charges against him.

The statute of limitations in France for attempted rape is 10 years.

Mansouret, a member of parliament, said she cautioned Banon not to file a police report at the time for fear it would hurt her journalism career.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.