Friday, July 29, 2011

Nafissatou Diallo's Media Blitz For "Every Other Woman in the World": Lady Justice Weeps

"Flanked by members of women's rights groups and advocates for Latinos and blacks," including a member of the New Black Panther Party, Nafissatou Diallo--who accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her--held what the New York Post called a "press conference/rally/image makeover" in which she announced that she was standing up for "every other woman in the world." (See here and here.)  Diallo declared: "You have to remember this guy [Strauss-Kahn] is a powerful man."  (See here.)

The press conference, the latest in a series of high profile attempts to cast Diallo in the role of victim, came hot on the heels of her Newsweek and ABC interviews.

The New York Post suggested that Diallo had gone Hollywood. "She was unrecognizable," at the press conference. "Gone were the baggy, gray slacks and lime-green, shapeless blouse she wore in that ill-advised interview on ABC. Gone was the lifeless hair."  (See here.)

What is this media blitz really about? As the reporter for the Post explained:

"The DA has suggested the case is in trouble. Not because of Diallo's race, but because she previously lied about being gang-raped and discussed Strauss-Kahn on the phone with a jail inmate accused of drug trafficking. And then, there's the matter of $100,000 that was reportedly funneled into her bank account by unsavory types.

"None of this, of course, has to do with whether she was sexually attacked, but it undermines her credibility and ability to testify.

"So change the subject. Make it about race. And while you're at it, buy a glamorous wardrobe and glittery lip gloss and attract an adoring fan club.

"It's one way to succeed."  (See here.)

Reuters reports: ". . . some experts said her lawyers were pushing [District Attorney Cyrus] Vance not to drop the case because otherwise Diallo's supporters might not vote for him if, as expected, he seeks reelection in 2013."  (See here.)

"Top defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz has called Diallo's media interviews, 'a desperate gambit to try to put pressure on the prosecution to consider not dropping the case.'" (Id.)

Diallo's lawyer threatens to file a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn. Asked when such a civil suit would be filed, he responded, "I said soon. Soon is soon." (See here.)  He added: "If it wasn't for race, if it wasn't for class, do you think [Diallo] would be treated this way?" he said. (See here.)

The implication of the media blitz is that law enforcement--specifically, the people who unnecessarily photographed Mr. Strauss-Kahn naked, denied him bail, held him in solitary confinement, subjected him to a most humiliating "perp walk," and boasted to the press how he was strip-searched multiple times a day--that law enforcement, isn't taking her claim seriously. And that's not even to mention the fact that because law enforcement rushed to arrest Strauss-Kahn and to essentially declare him guilty, Strauss-Kahn was forced to step down from one of the world's most important jobs and likely has been deprived of any realistic chance to be elected president of France.

In short, the suggestion that Diallo's claim wasn't taken seriously is at odds with the facts. Prof. Alan Dershowitz summed it up: "They shouldn’t have presumed him guilty from the beginning." Feminist Naomi Wolf  said: "Whatever happened in that hotel room, Strauss-Kahn’s career, and his presumption of innocence, was effectively over — before any legal process had even begun." Defense lawyer superstar Roy Black chimed in with a stinging indictment of how the presumptively innocent are deprived of critical rights in rape cases. (See here.)

Perhaps worst of all, once again, a serious charge of criminality has been reduced to crass identity politics as interest groups wishing to further a dubious race/class/gender agenda are backing Diallo even though the criminal investigation is ongoing, and not even a scrap of evidence has been admitted at trial.

It's as if Duke lacrosse never happened.

For one, Susan Brownmiller, best known for popularizing the assertion that only two percent of rape claims are false, declared: "I believe her story." Brownmiller's proof? "Rape victims remember some facts vividly," she asserted, "but often get confused about exact timelines." (See here.) That might be so, but Brownmiller doesn't bother to note that rape liars also often posit narratives that are a hodgepodge of clarity, confusion, and vagueness. See, e.g., J. Savino, B. Turvey, Rape Investigation Handbook,  at 286-87 (2d ed. 2011). Brownmiller's advocacy for Diallo would be laughable in any non-politicized setting, but she's a guru of the sexual grievance movement, so her prejudgment-by-gender is afforded respect in the twisted world of rape politics.

It isn't just gender warriors who are backing Diallo. "Khadijah Shakur, a member of the New Black Panther Party, was among the roughly two dozen supporters who joined Ms. Diallo near a small stage in the lobby, assembled behind red velvet rope. 'She is being blamed, but she is the victim,' Ms. Shakur said before the news conference."  (See here.)  How Ms. Shakur knows Diallo is a victim is anyone's guess.

Fortunately, their efforts have not yet attracted widespread support. "Notwithstanding Thursday's show of support, Diallo's case has not brought a groundswell of public support or led to widespread outcries about Vance's handling of the case.  'In my political travels around Manhattan, I don't hear any of the woman activists jumping up and down that much,' said Arthur Greig, a lawyer and former New York County Democratic Committee counsel. 'I haven't seen or heard any groundswell.'"  (See here.)

Lost in the circus is the fact that a serious allegation about a potentially serious crime deserves to be handled in a serious manner, even if it appears that the accuser has serious credibility problems. And handling a rape claim seriously does not mean treating the accuser like a Kardashian or destroying the presumptively innocent man accused of the crime in the court of public opinion.