NEW YORK – The hotel maid at the center of the now-teetering sex assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn filed a libel lawsuit Tuesday against the New York Post after the tabloid reported she was a prostitute.
The woman's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, filed the claim in Bronx state Supreme Court after the Post, relying on anonymous sources, referred to the 32-year-old as a "prostitute" and a "hooker." The paper also reported that she "traded sex for money" and turned tricks at a Brooklyn hotel while she was being housed by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
All of those statements are false, according to the lawsuit, and have subjected the woman to humiliation and ridicule.
"We filed the suit because rape victims should not be called prostitutes," Thompson said.
A spokeswoman for the Post said the paper stands by its reporting.
The Post's claims came in a series of articles published after a special hearing Friday in which Strauss-Kahn, the 62-year-old former head of the International Monetary Fund, was released without bail after prosecutors conceded that new information about the woman's life had forced them to reconsider the case.
The Post has not named the woman, as is customary in the U.S. media with people who say they are victims of sexual assault.
But her attorney said it is clear to whom they are referring, because there is only one hotel maid accusing Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape.
In arguing libel, it is not necessary for the maid to prove the general public knows her and was affected by the possibly defamatory statements. At issue is whether people close to her, either in her professional or personal life, would see the accusations and would know they refer to her, said David Heller of the nonprofit Media Law Research Center, which monitors First Amendment and libel issues.
The size of the pool of people potentially affected by the statements could mean larger damages awarded if the libel accusations were founded, Heller said.
In articles over the weekend in print and online, the Post reported that the 32-year-old maid had traded sex for money at the Sofitel Hotel, where she was working when she accused Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her May 14.
The Post also reported that she was placed in the hotel by her union, which the newspaper said received kickbacks from her tricks. The union, in the Post story, denied those claims. Later articles said that she continued to trade sex for money, even while she was housed by prosecutors.
The information was either attributed to anonymous sources or, in some cases, was stated as fact without attribution.
"In an apparent desperate attempt to bolster its rapidly plunging sales, defendant New York Post ran a series of defamatory articles which ... stated as fact that the plaintiff is a prostitute," according to the suit.
The Post, the suit says, is one of the most influential newspapers in the country, and is read each day by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.
The suit also names the reporters who wrote the articles as defendants.
Strauss-Kahn, accused of attempted rape and other crimes, may not leave the country but was freed from house arrest Friday. Prosecutors said they are continuing to investigate the case and have not dropped any charges.
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