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Immunity in spotlight in NYC suit vs. Strauss-Kahn

By Jennifer Peltz

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, March 25 2012 5:05 p.m. MDT

"Mr. Strauss-Kahn enjoyed absolute immunity under customary international law," even after he resigned the IMF post but was required to stay in the United States for the criminal case, lawyer William W. Taylor III wrote in a September court filing calling for the suit to be dismissed.

Diallo's lawyers responded that Strauss-Kahn's argument "misses the mark completely." It's overreaching to claim that the 1947 agreement amounts to an international norm, especially in a country that didn't sign onto it, and the IMF flatly said Strauss-Kahn didn't have immunity, Thompson wrote in a filing in October.

If the case survives, it will test Diallo's claims in a forum with considerably different rules than criminal court.

Prosecutors in criminal cases must prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, while plaintiffs in lawsuits need only persuade a judge or jury that a preponderance of the evidence is in their favor. And a defendant can be forced to testify in a civil case, unlike in a criminal one.

The former criminal case against Strauss-Kahn could factor in the civil case, however. Diallo's lawyers likely would try to introduce the fact that Strauss-Kahn was criminally charged. And his attorneys could try to raise the inconsistencies in her statements to prosecutors, said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor in New Jersey who's now a defense lawyer with McCarter & English LLP.

Since his arrest, Strauss-Kahn has been mired in other allegations surrounding his sex life.

A French writer came forward to say he'd tried to rape her during a 2003 interview; Paris prosecutors said in October that the case was too old to try, but they said Strauss-Kahn had admitted during questioning to actions amounting to sexual assault.

Then he was questioned by police in Lille, France, last month about a suspected hotel prostitution ring.

Diallo, meanwhile, has struggled with psychological and physical aftereffects of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn, Thompson said. She said a ligament in her shoulder was torn, among other injuries.

She hasn't returned to work or even gone back to the hotel since, her lawyer said.

Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz

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