Center wins first Pulitzer!

Black lung investigation honored

Get more award-winning investigations:

New details of investigation of a hotel maid's charge that she was sexually assaulted by IMF chief

By

 Updated:

Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn

AP

The hotel maid who alleged she was sexually assaulted by the former head of the International Monetary Fund was found by a supervisor in a hallway after she escaped from his luxury suite, according to two people familiar with the investigation. Three members of the Sofitel hotel staff heard her story and then took her to the hotel’s security office.

They described her as traumatized, having difficulty speaking and concerned about losing her job if she pressed charges. The hotel security chief found her story credible and called police.

The maid also repeatedly spit on the walls and floor — witnessed by hotel colleagues — as she described being forced to commit oral sexual acts on Strauss-Kahn. Her saliva is being tested for DNA and could become crucial evidence in the case, the sources said.

These sources, who spoke only condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, provided the first detailed account of the hour-long window between the alleged attack and when police were summoned. What transpired in that hour is certain to be questioned by Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers as criminal charges move forward.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, "He'll plead not guilty and in the end he'll be acquitted."

The sources asserted that the steps taken during that hour helped make the criminal case and apprehend the suspect before he fled the country. In that hour, Sofitel hotel staff calmed the maid, got her to overcome her difficulty describing what happened, did a thorough interview, and got police on the scene for forensic testing.

The sources said the maid, described as a West African immigrant in her 30s, had normally been assigned to clean a different floor in the hotel but recently volunteered to take the floor of Strauss-Kahn's luxury suite after a colleague went on leave.

The maid reported she entered Strauss-Kahn's room shortly before noon on Saturday, May 14, after a room-service employee assured her the suite was empty. She left the door open as she began cleaning.

She said she was startled when Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from a bathroom. She said she apologized to him and turned away from him, but the ex-IMF chief grabbed her from behind and touched her breasts, remarking she was beautiful.

The woman alleged Strauss-Kahn slammed the door to the suite and engaged the indoor latch to lock it, trapping her inside. She alleged that he dragged her deeper inside the suite, and when she slipped trying to get away, he forced her head down to perform oral sex acts.

The woman eventually escaped the room and hid in a hallway just outside his $3,000-a-night VIP suite, as Strauss-Kahn hurriedly left the suite and went downstairs to check out.

A cleaning supervisor for the floor found the traumatized maid shortly before 12:30 p.m. as she stood near a closet outside the suite. The maid said she hid in a hallway until Strauss-Kahn left, and the supervisor emerged from a service elevator a few moments later for a normal floor check.

The supervisor tried to calm the maid and ascertain what happened, taking her back to Strauss-Kahn's suite where she became visibly upset. The maid expressed concern during at least one of the conversations with her supervisors that she'd lose her job because she had walked in on a hotel guest, the sources said.

The floor supervisor reported the maid had nausea and was trembling. As soon as the supervisor ascertained an attack had occurred, she called one of her bosses in housecleaning, who responded to an in-house call and came to the floor, the sources said.

When the more senior housekeeping supervisor got enough details from the maid to believe a crime had been committed, she called a hotel security officer to the room.

The security officer interrogated the maid, getting extensive details of what had happened in the suite. Throughout the questioning, the maid appeared traumatized and several times spit on the floor and walls. At one point she went to a bathroom to try to vomit. Her saliva was later removed from carpet and walls as evidence.

The hotel security officer then alerted the chief of hotel security, a former law enforcement officer, who conducted another interview that was halting at times because the woman had become increasingly traumatized and sick, the sources said.

The maid repeated her concerns about being fired and inquired whether she should even press charges.

The security chief made the decision to call New York police and an ambulance once he had ascertained there was enough evidence of a crime and that the maid's story had been consistent during all four conversations she had with hotel employees, the sources said.

The four interviews and repeated efforts to calm the woman took about an hour. Police were summoned around 1:30 p.m.

Shortly after police arrived, Strauss-Kahn called the hotel to report he had left his cell phone behind and his call was immediately routed to the Sofitel security chief, the sources said.

Working with detectives who were in the room, the hotel security chief falsely told Strauss-Kahn the cell phone had been located and he would drive it to the IMF chief. The security chief got Strauss-Kahn to tell him that he was already at the Air France lounge at New York's John F. Kennedy airport and planning to fly to Paris, the sources said.

Using the information from the security chief's call, police detectives called Port Authority police and apprehended Strauss-Kahn on the jetliner about 10 minutes before the flight was to depart.

The Sofitel has fully cooperated with law enforcement, making employees available for voluntary interviews, reviewing security tapes, and turning over records of phone calls, check-ins and check-outs, and door card readers. Some of these employees were also brought before a grand jury before Strauss-Kahn was formally indicted and released on $1 million bail this week.