NEW YORK – The meeting between Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers and prosecutors was private. But it only ratcheted up public debate over the sexual assault case against him.
Outside the Manhattan District Attorney's closed doors, the lawyer for the hotel maid who has accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her said prosecutors had tried to discredit the woman and called on them to appoint a special prosecutor. A police fraternal organization and some others pressed prosecutors to go forward with the case, which has foundered on doubts about the accuser's credibility after prosecutors said she had a history of lying.
And while outside voices weighed in on the case Wednesday, outside forces continued to weigh on it. As prosecutors said they hadn't yet decided whether to go ahead with the case, the clock ticked toward a July 13 deadline for Strauss-Kahn to enter a primary for the presidential race in France, where he was considered a leading contender until his May arrest.
Further muddying the waters, the prosecutor's office in Paris said Wednesday it had received a criminal complaint accusing Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape a writer eight years ago.
The former International Monetary Fund head denies the latest allegation. His French lawyers have called the writer's account "imaginary" and say they plan to file a complaint accusing her of slander.
Participants on both sides were tight-lipped about Wednesday's meeting in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.'s office, which came five days after prosecutors said the accuser had not been truthful about her background and the aftermath of the alleged attack.
Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn called the session "constructive." Vance's office said only that it was continuing to investigate and that no decisions had been made about the case's future.
Vance's office had no immediate comment on the request by the maid's lawyer that a special prosecutor be appointed to take over the case. The lawyer questioned the way prosecutors have treated the accuser.
Private meetings between prosecutors and defense attorneys are not unusual, but the stakes in the Strauss-Kahn case are especially high.
The defense has said it wants an outright dismissal, insisting that the encounter with the Manhattan hotel maid was not forced. Prosecutors must decide whether to forge ahead with a flawed case, seek a face-saving plea deal or cut their losses — a decision fraught with political peril for Vance.
Meanwhile, the July 13 deadline for Strauss-Kahn to register in France's Socialist Party primary is just five days before his next court date.
It's unclear whether he might be able to enter the race later and what French voters would think if he did. Recent polls in France have shown people divided over any potential return to politics.
Some legal experts have said the sexual assault allegations would be difficult, if not impossible, for U.S. prosecutors to prove because the accuser's history of fabrications could make a jury reluctant to believe her. Vance's office says it did the appropriate thing at every stage.
After the case developed, the maid acknowledged she had lied to prosecutors about being gang-raped in Guinea and had not given a grand jury an accurate account of what she did immediately after the alleged attack.
On Wednesday, members of the police fraternal organization 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care urged Vance's office to go ahead with the prosecution, noting that there was physical and other evidence to support it.
The group also wants to see a special prosecutor appointed, group founder Noel Leader said.
"This is not the Cy Vance we thought we were getting, the one who said he would prosecute fairly across the board," he said. "This is a female immigrant victim of humble means. We have to question whether there's issues of race, gender and economic status involved here."
Just a few weeks ago, the New York case looked destined to be a long legal fight.
Strauss-Kahn was accused of chasing down the 32-year-old hotel housekeeper in his luxury suite, forcing her to perform oral sex and yanking down her pantyhose. Her version of the May 14 events was unwavering, and police and prosecutors called her credible.
Prosecutors have not publicly questioned her account of the encounter itself, but they appear to have lost faith in the accuser's prospects of helping them prove it.
Strauss-Kahn is free, though he can't leave the United States. He's due back in a New York court July 18.
Associated Press Writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
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