Rape charges dropped against former IMF chief

NEW YORK — Dominique Strauss-Kahn looked considerably better leaving a Manhattan courthouse Tuesday than he did three months ago when he first arrived in police custody, tired and disheveled, to face charges that he tried to rape a hotel housekeeper.

This time the French political leader was smiling, even looking like he lost a few pounds, in a dark blue suit and striped tie. His wife and legal team were also all smiling: Strauss-Kahn was a free man and, as he later told French reporters, "in a hurry to get home."

A New York state judge had just granted prosecutors' request to dismiss all the charges and denied his accuser's bid to have a special prosecutor appointed, with an appeals court backing that ruling. The Manhattan district attorney's office had asked for the dismissal after losing faith in the credibility of Nafissatou Diallo, the immigrant from West Africa who they said lied to them repeatedly both about her past and certain facts surrounding the case.

Strauss-Kahn still faces a civil lawsuit by Diallo filed seeking unspecified damages. He also faces a rape allegation by a French writer stemming from an alleged 2003 attack. But the sensational criminal case that could have put the former head of the International Monetary Fund in an American prison for up to 15 years is over.

After the hearing, Benjamin Brafman, an attorney for Strauss-Kahn, called it an "extraordinary event" for prosecutors to stand up in court and admit that they no longer had a solid case.

Diallo lawyer Kenneth Thompson, meanwhile, repeated his accusations that prosecutors had a double standard because of Strauss-Kahn's wealth and power.

"If Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a bus driver from the South Bronx, do you think prosecutors would have cared about inconsistencies in her stories?" he said, referring to Diallo. "We are disappointed ... that (Manhattan District Attorney) Cyrus Vance would deny her day in court."