NEW YORK — A hotel maid's sexual assault lawsuit against Dominique Strauss-Kahn can go forward to trial, a judge ruled Tuesday, rebuffing the former International Monetary Fund leader's diplomatic-immunity claim.
Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon's ruling kept alive the civil case that emerged from a May 2011 hotel-room encounter that also spurred now-dismissed criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn, then a French presidential hopeful. The episode was the first in a series of allegations about his sexual conduct that sank his political career.
The housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, 33, said Strauss-Kahn, 63, tried to rape her when she arrived to clean his Manhattan hotel suite. Strauss-Kahn has denied doing anything violent during the encounter.
Prosecutors dropped the criminal charges last summer, saying they had developed doubts about Diallo's trustworthiness because she had lied about her background and her actions right after the alleged attack. Diallo has insisted she told the truth about what happened in the encounter itself.
Strauss-Kahn resigned his IMF job days after his arrest, and he didn't assert immunity from the criminal prosecution; his lawyers have said he was focused then on trying to exonerate himself. But after the lawsuit was filed, about three months later, they said he should have immunity from the civil case.
Invoking an American sports metaphor, the judge said their argument amounted to a "Hail Mary" pass, and one that raised a question of fairness.
"Strauss-Kahn cannot eschew immunity (in the criminal case) in an effort to clear his name only to embrace it now to deny Ms. Diallo the opportunity to clear hers," the judge wrote.
Diallo's lawyers issued a statement calling the ruling "well-reasoned and articulate."
"We have said all along that Strauss Kahn's desperate plea for immunity was a tactic designed to delay these proceedings, and we now look forward to holding him accountable for the brutal sexual assault that he committed," attorneys Kenneth P. Thompson and Douglas H. Wigdor said in a statement.
Strauss-Kahn's attorneys said they were disappointed and mulling their next move.
"He is determined to fight the claims brought against him, and we are confident that he will prevail," lawyers William Taylor III and Amit Mehta said in a statement.
They had made what experts say was a novel, two-pronged argument: that Strauss-Kahn was entitled to a broad form of immunity that covers even actions not taken in an official capacity, and that it extended even after he resigned his job because he had to stay in the United States during the criminal case.