Relations between the maid in the case and the New York district attorney's office appear to have irreparably broken down after her lawyers accused the office of leaking damaging information about her.
Kenneth Thompson, representing the unidentified alleged victim of a sexual assault by the former IMF head, is calling for Cyrus Vance to quit the case. In a letter addressed to the chief prosecutor, Thompson wrote: "District Attorney Vance, we ask in earnest that your office voluntarily recuse itself from the Strauss-Kahn case and that you appoint a special prosecutor."
The extraordinary request is an indication of the dire state of the prosecution case. Vance has stated there were "major holes" in the maid's account of events at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan where the alleged attack took place. Strauss-Kahn's legal team met lawyers from the office on Wednesday to discuss how to resolve the case.
Hours before Vance made his declaration to the Manhattan court last week, detailing problems with the maid's testimony. Thompson accused Daniel Alonso, a senior member of Vance's team, of having planted the leak with the newspaper. In his letter, obtained by Reuters, Thompson said quotes given in the Times article were almost identical to language used by Alonso to Thompson at around the same time.
In the article, it was revealed that the maid had telephoned her boyfriend, who is held in an prison in Arizona on drugs charges. The Times said that in the conversation, recorded by police, she said words to the effect of "Don't worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I am doing."
Thompson said "virtually the same words" had been used by Alonso to him just hours earlier.
Thompson went on in his letter to complain that the office had failed to categorically deny a story in the Post alleging that the maid has been a prostitute. "Such apparent leaks by members of your office is, without question, an abrogation of the duties and responsibilities of the prosecutor."
Vance is caught in a case that could define the success or failure of his term as chief prosecutor in the city. On the one hand he is obliged to share serious doubts about the alleged victim with the courts and with the defence; on the other hand he cannot be seen to be discriminating against a poor apparently defenceless woman in favour of a very rich and powerful man.