Strauss-Kahn attorneys press immunity claim at hearing

Posted March 28, 2012, at 8:16 p.m.

NEW YORK — As a deepening sex scandal surrounds Dominique Strauss-Kahn, his lawyers tried Wednesday to end a lawsuit over the hotel-room encounter that spurred international scrutiny of his behavior toward women.

At a hearing that centered on a complicated corner of international law, they tried to persuade a judge that the former International Monetary Fund chief has diplomatic immunity from a hotel maid’s lawsuit claiming he sexually assaulted her. Her accusations prompted criminal charges that ultimately were dropped, but they touched off a growing slate of allegations about his conduct.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers aim to persuade a judge to dismiss the civil case, too. That “may seem like an unfair result to some, but it’s the result the law compels,” Strauss-Kahn attorney lawyer Amit P. Mehta said.

But housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo’s lawyers said Strauss-Kahn was stretching the rules of immunity to shield himself.

“Dominique Strauss-Kahn thinks he’s above the law,” one of Diallo’s lawyers, Kenneth P. Thompson, said outside court. He called the immunity claim “completely baseless.”

Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon said he would rule “expeditiously” but didn’t specify a date.

Neither Strauss-Kahn, 62, nor Diallo, 33, was at the hearing, the first in the civil case. It came as Strauss-Kahn faced fresh charges in his native France amid a prostitution investigation.

Strauss-Kahn, once a potential French presidential candidate, was charged last year with attempted rape and other crimes after his May 14 encounter with Diallo. He has called the encounter a “moral failing” but insists it wasn’t violent.

The criminal case was dismissed after prosecutors lost faith in Diallo’s credibility. She sued Strauss-Kahn.

His lawyers call the suit a money grab.

“We have lots of arguments, including the fact that it’s clear that Ms. Diallo would like to have more money than she does today,” attorney William W. Taylor III said after court.

Wednesday’s arguments, however, dealt only with the complex laws that protect diplomats from prosecution and lawsuits in their host countries.

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