EXCLUSIVE: ‘I thought I’d be killed.’ Hotel maid who sparked international scandal when she accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sex assault gives first ever interview describing living in fear after learning he was one of the most powerful men in the world
- Ten years ago Nafissatou Diallo, then a maid at Manhattan’s Sofitel hotel, claimed that she had been sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 71
- Strauss-Kahn was the Minister for the Economy and Head of the International Monetary Fund and was set to announce his run for French president
- Diallo’s allegations and the media storm that followed left his reputation and political ambitions in tatters
- The criminal charges brought against Strauss-Kahn were dropped three months after his high-profile arrest
- Now Diallo, 42, is speaking out for the first time in a decade in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com
- ‘The day the DA dropped the case was the day I almost took my life. I was going to take my life. I was going to record myself and take my life,’ she said
- In a searingly honest and often emotional talk the former maid has recalled her terror at learning the identity of her powerful alleged assailant
- Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com Diallo said, ‘It’s ten years perhaps to everybody else, but every single day I remember it…It never goes away’
Manhattan hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo had no inkling her life was about to unravel when she used her pass key to clean the suite she believed to be unoccupied.
But on that the day in May 2011, ‘the lights went off’ for Diallo as she unwittingly triggered an international scandal of epic proportions after she fled the upscale Sofitel Suite 2806 alleging that she had been sexually assault by its occupant, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 71.
The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Strauss-Kahn, one of the most powerful men in the world, was set to announce his Presidential candidacy in his home country of France.
Diallo’s allegations and the media storm that followed left his reputation and political ambitions in tatters.
And it left Diallo, now 42, shattered by not only the alleged assault but the incomprehensible aftermath.
Speaking out for the first time in a decade with DailyMail.com, Diallo tells of her terror at learning the identity of her powerful alleged assailant. She shares the agony of being hounded from her home and having her life picked apart by press and prosecutors.
Ten years ago Nafissatou Diallo then a maid at Manhattan’s Sofitel hotel, claimed that she had been sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 71. Today Diallo is speaking out for the first time in a decade in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com
Strauss-Kahn was the Minister for the Economy and Head of the International Monetary Fund and was set to announce his run for French president. He’s seen being detained on May 15, 2011 and was charged with attempted rape
She has revealed that she felt so devastated and betrayed by prosecutors when they dropped all charges that she almost took her own life.
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail.com Diallo said, ‘It’s ten years perhaps to everybody else, but every single day I remember it…It never goes away.
‘May 14, 2011 is the day and date I’m never going to forget in my life. Because that day the light turned to dark, the lights went off. Every time I think about it, I turn on the TV or talk to somebody to try to forget because I don’t want to feel sad anymore, I want to feel like myself, like I used to feel.
‘What happened that day changed my life forever. I never thought in my life I was going to become public. What happened that day was a big deal but what happened after that day, that was even bigger.’
And, according to Diallo, what happened after that day hurt her more than any assault ever could and came close to destroying her completely.
The details of what happened in Suite 2806 are well documented and today the single mother from Guinea cannot bear to repeat them because, she said, ‘If I remember I cannot hold back my tears.’
She had traveled to work from the Bronx apartment she shared with her 15-year-old daughter as usual that morning.
Diallo arrived in the States in 2003 and landing her job at the Sofitel was, she said, the culmination of her dreams.
She had been told by a room-service waiter that room 2806 was free for cleaning and after getting no response when she knocked and announced herself three times, she used her key to enter it.
According to Diallo’s account Strauss-Kahn suddenly appeared naked, startling her into apologies. He told her not to be sorry and grabbed at her. In the scuffle that followed he pushed her down onto the bed, clutched at her breast and pushed up her uniform, tearing at her underwear.
He tried to put his penis in her mouth, but she resisted and shoved him away, he shoved back, and the struggle moved from the bedroom to the suite’s hallway and down towards the bathroom. Diallo alleges that Strauss-Kahn pushed her to her knees, with her back against the wall, and forced himself into her mouth.
The report from the hospital where Diallo was later taken for examination noted that, ‘she felt something wet and sour come into her mouth and she spit it out on the carpet.’
‘What happened that day changed my life forever. I never thought in my life I was going to become public. What happened that day was a big deal but what happened after that day, that was even bigger,’ she told DailyMail.com. Diallo is seen with her attorney entering court in 2012
Strauss-Kahn is pictured with wife Anne Sinclair as they return to Manhattan State Supreme Court to request a reduction of his $6 million bail and expensive house arrest provisions in 2011
Distraught, Diallo fled the room. Moments later she saw the man whose identity she still did not know calmly leave 2806 and head for the elevator.
In fact, Strauss-Kahn had made a telephone call to his daughter, who was studying in New York, before checking out and meeting her for lunch later that day.
An hour after Diallo told her supervisor about what had happened, and on the encouragement of hotel security staff, 911 was called and Diallo filed her report with the police.
A physical examination showed bruises where Diallo said Strauss-Kahn had grabbed her and revealed a torn ligament in her shoulder. Stains on Diallo’s uniform and samples taken from the hotel room carpet showed Strauss-Kahn’s semen mingled with Diallo’s saliva.
Cops apprehended the then IMF chief later that day, when they boarded the flight to Paris on which he was sitting at JFK airport, and escorted him from the aircraft in handcuffs.
Diallo’s primary concern was her daughter who expected her home that evening.
She said, ‘I told police I have to let my daughter know I’m not coming home now. So, I called her and said, ”There’s been an accident at work. I’m not coming home now but don’t worry I’m going to be home soon and I’m going to be fine.”
‘She was scared, she didn’t know what kind of accident. I just told her, ”I’m going to stay here for now, but I will be back, I promise you that.”
Diallo was still oblivious to the importance of the man whom she had accused.
She told DailyMail.com that she only realized his significance when she returned home and switched on the television in her room thinking to take a few moments to gather herself before speaking to her daughter.
She said, ‘I got home, and I was watching Channel 7 and I saw it on TV, that was how I learned how big and scary it was. I was crying all day, but I was crying more and so scared after that.
‘I thought that was the end for me and my daughter. I thought they were going to kill me.’
According to Diallo if she had made such allegations against a man of Strauss-Kahn’s power in Guinea that’s what would have happened.
In truth, she would be hunted down another way. Diallo recalled, ‘My phone started ringing, phone numbers from Europe – I never had people call me from there.
‘I see a lot of strange numbers from here in America and Europe and then [the press] started ringing my [door]bell. I was so scared. I had to call the detectives and they had to come and pick me up.
‘That was the last day I was in that apartment. I left that day and I never went back.’
Diallo arrived in the States in 2003 and landing her job at the Sofitel was, she said, the culmination of her dreams. She had been told by a room-service waiter that room 2806 was free for cleaning and after getting no response when she knocked and announced herself three times, she used her key to enter it
Two members of the NYPD crime scene unit enter an elevator at the Sofitel hotel in New York, Saturday, May 14, 2011 to investigate Diallo’s claims
It is hard to overstate the international frenzy that blew up around the Strauss-Kahn case. Diallo had to be smuggled out of the back door at the only press conference she gave while a decoy, dressed like her drew the press scrum off her scent at the front.
There was no way for Diallo to prepare herself for the scrutiny – or the cruelty – of some of the coverage that followed. The New York Post ran a front-page article branding her a ‘hooker,’ as Strauss-Kahn’s camp did everything in their power to discredit his accuser.
Strauss-Kahn claimed that the encounter was ‘consensual.’ The married father-of-four admitted that he was a womanizer but said that there was no force or threat involved. Diallo was cast as a shake-down artist, just waiting for her pay-day.
Interviewed for the Netflix documentary, ‘Room 2806: The Accusation,’ Michael Osgood, then Deputy Chief of Police described Strauss-Kahn’s assertions as having, ‘no merit.’
But it didn’t stop the rumors from spreading and there was more to come.
It emerged that Diallo had lied to authorities and a Grand Jury about her background in Guinea. It was also revealed that she had fiddled her taxes and had a relationship with Amara Tarawally, a convicted drug dealer who used her bank account to deposit large sums of money.
Diallo watched as her credibility was put on trial and found wanting. Her character, and not Strauss-Kahn’s, was picked apart by District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr’s office and the world’s press.
Today it is clearly painful for Diallo to recall the damage done.
She told DailyMail.com, ‘I was so hurt from this guy. I was so hurt from people calling me names without knowing me because it’s powerful.
‘I was so hurt, seeing even my mother on TV from my village in Africa. I was so hurt about everything.
‘But the DAs hurt me the most because they accused me of something I didn’t do. They checked me instead of the guy who did this to me. They treated me as a criminal. They called me a liar.’
Strauss-Kahn recruited the services of some of the city’s biggest lawyers, including Benjamin Brafman, who went onto defend disgraced Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein in 2019 with notably less success.
Diallo continued, ‘This guy had powerful lawyers, but I thought the DA was meant to be powerful too. They were not supposed to be scared of this guy and his lawyers and abandon me.’
But that, according to Diallo, is what happened. On Monday, August 22, 2011 the district attorney’s office formally moved to dismiss the case against Strauss-Kahn.
Describing Diallo as someone who was, ‘persistently, and at times inexplicably, untruthful in describing matters of both great and small significance,’ the prosecutors stated that they could not ask a jury to believe her beyond all reasonable doubt, when they no longer did so themselves.
For Diallo it was the most devastating and public blow of all, as she has now reveals for the first time.
She told DailyMail.com, ‘The day the DA dropped the case was the day I almost took my life. I was going to take my life. I was going to record myself and take my life. I was watching TV and crying’. She’s seen leaving the DA’s office in July 2011
The criminal charges brought against Strauss-Kahn were dropped three months after his high-profile arrest
Diallo’s allegations and the media storm that followed left his reputation and political ambitions in tatters. Dominique Strauss-Kahn and wife Anne Sinclair pictured in their apartment in Paris, France
She told DailyMail.com, ‘The day the DA dropped the case was the day I almost took my life. I was going to take my life. I was going to record myself and take my life. I was watching TV and crying.’
But then Diallo saw Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzi-Orbon and the team’s sex crimes expert, Ann Prunty, ‘running out of the courthouse,’ without saying a word. And in that moment, witnessing what she saw as their weakness, she found her strength.
Diallo said, ‘I prayed to God and I said God you just sent me a sign not to kill myself. You are going to fight for me one day.
‘I never did counselling. I said to God you make me come here to America; you changed my life [once] before. You made this guy come here and I don’t know why you choose me God, but you’re going to use me as a key to stop bad things. That’s why I am strong. I feel like God used me as a key to save other people.’
Diallo’s high-profile case, and the furore that surrounded its dismissal, has been credited by some as the vital precursor to the #MeToo movement. Other women came forward to allege similar encounters with Strauss-Kahn and the ground-swell of support for Diallo saw hundreds take to the streets in her name.
Diallo brought a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn and won an undisclosed settlement rumored to be more than $1million. She also successfully sued the New York Post for their front-page story branding her a ‘hooker.’
There was, she said, some comfort in both victories, ‘That made me feel so much better after the civil case. The judge made me feel better. It’s not about the money it’s about making me feel better and [the civil court] didn’t abandon me the way the DA did.’
Diallo does not know if her daughter, now 25, has watched the recent Netflix documentary. She believes she has, but they have not spoken about it.
She said, ‘She went through a lot like I went through. We don’t want to remember that case. She knows, I tell her everything. But we don’t want to remember. That’s why also I’m still hurt. I feel like my daughter [was] hurt because of me and that’s not what I wished for. That wasn’t my dream.’
In the years since the scandal broke Diallo has tried to re-establish her life. It has not been easy. She tried opening a restaurant in the Bronx, but the hours were too long, and people came there looking for her and so she closed it down.
Today she is cagey about her day-to-day existence and the woman who received death-threats at the time of the case, claims to still fear for her safety.
She said that she is writing a book and hopes to tell her story fully in its pages.
‘It’s been ten years and I know the real truth is going to come out and somebody is going to feel my pain,’ Diallo told DailyMail.com
Diallo said that she is ‘trying to be happy’ but that she will be happier when she sees more justice for victims like herself
Strauss-Kahn and New York DA Vance Jr are two names that, she said, strike fear into her heart to this day. But she has always had faith that the truth would come out in the end – however long that might take.
She said, ‘I know that in America the truth is going to come out…things that happen many years ago, the truth comes out today.’
She continued, ‘It’s been ten years and I know the real truth is going to come out and somebody is going to feel my pain.
‘I don’t even want to hear about him [Strauss-Kahn]. I don’t want to remember about him I don’t want to think about him. I don’t want anything about him. For him, God’s judgement is good, and I feel like God showed people who he is already.’
She continued, ‘I never regret that I reported everything that happened to me.
‘I’m not doing anything for me anymore. What happened to me has happened, there’s nothing anyone can do to change that and there’s nothing I can do to change the past. Now I’m thinking about the future.’
She said that she is ‘trying to be happy’ but that she will be happier when she sees more justice for victims like herself and she has a message for New York’s DA.
She said, ‘For me it’s passed already but I would say to the DA, no matter how powerful lawyers are do not let victims down when they are in pain because you know the truth.
‘They know what happened that day, nothing’s going to change that, but please don’t hurt somebody else the way you hurt me.’
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