It was a standing joke at the American Club in Hong Kong many years ago that the Chinese invariably pronounced the English letter "r" as an "l" such as in "flied lice". It seems the Americans were so accustomed to automatically translating Chinese English into American English they had great difficulty keeping a straight face whenever their Chinese counterparts brought up the subject of the American presidential election.
That joke came to my mind as I followed the unravelling saga of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's sexual adventures as revealed by the investigations of the district attorney's office in New York. Something seemed to suggest that the excitement generated by the prospect of next year's French presidential election, which the polls predicted he would win hands down, had an irresistible psychological and physiological effect on him. In DSK's psyche and corpus cavernosum it was due to be an election of the Chinese English sort or it was not to be at all.
The personality profile of DSK which gradually evolved from these revelations was that of a modern Don Juan drawing on the aura of superior social status and political power as a magnet to attract an infinite number of female victims. His image was that of an amoral sexual predator who knew no limits and was sure of his rights and privileges.
So there you have it, Your Honor, is, in essence, the concluding message of the district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., to Justice Michael J. Obus, the presiding judge of the Supreme Court in Manhattan:
Our investigations establish conclusively that the defendant (DSK) engaged in a sexual encounter with the complainant (a hotel maid assigned to room cleaning) hurriedly, sometime between 12:06 p.m. and 12:13 p.m. on May 14, 2011 in the defendant's suite 2806 of the Sofitel Hotel in midtown Manhattan. However, the complainant (an illiterate black African immigrant from Guinea) lied to investigators on numerous occasions about this and other matters and has discredited herself as a witness. Her claim, therefore, of a non-consensual sexual encounter cannot be considered reliable beyond reasonable doubt and we recommend that the case be dismissed.
The judge acquiesced. An appeal immediately introduced by the hotel maid's lawyer was promptly dismissed and DSK recuperated his passport and travel documents which the court had confiscated.
The leaders of the French socialist party and DSK's supporters were, of course, jubilant at the news. They could now proudly proclaim as Obama had done following the announcement of the death of Osama Bin Laden some months earlier: "justice has been done". For them this meant that DSK had been found innocent of all charges. He solemnly declared on television "I can't wait to return to my country after this terrible, unjust ordeal".
For the hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, affectionately known as Ophelia by her work colleagues and as Nafi by her elder brother in their remote African village in Guinea, the judge's decision could have far worse consequences than the brief sexual encounter with DSK. She now risks prosecution for perjury before a grand jury for the lies she told from fear of losing her job as well as expulsion from the United States for having obtained an entrance visa on false pretences.
It is clear that Nafi is completely out of her depth and incapable of handling the situation in which she has been unwittingly plunged. She is highly vulnerable and unable to provide a clear and consistent narrative either of the hotel incident or of her past life. She even accused herself of having wrongly declared that she had been the victim of a gang rape to justify her request for asylum in the United States. The investigators found that this was inexact. There was no mention of it on her written asylum application. She subsequently indicated that she had been advised to make that declaration by an unnamed man whom she had consulted to help prepare her asylum request. Finally, she told investigators, she decided not to mention the rape in her written application.
The prosecutor noted in his 25 page report:
She had a work history at the Sofitel Hotel of more than three years, her employee file contained no incident reports or disciplinary history and her supervisors indicated that she was a model employee. She had no criminal history and had been granted asylum by the United States Immigration Court. Although she noted that she had originally entered the United States using a visa and papers that had been issued to a different person, she readily admitted this fact. Finally, available evidence indicated that the complainant had no foreknowledge of the defendant's stay at the hotel that might have enabled her to orchestrate an encounter between them, and that she entered the defendant's suite believing it to be empty.
Ophelia or Nafi is evidently a poor, uneducated and very simple person with limited intellectual faculties who courageously migrated to the United States with her 2 year old daughter from her native African village in Guinea. Her life seems to have been a constant struggle for survival. Despite her meagre resources she managed to find a job as a chambermaid and a small apartment in the Bronx in a building rented to people with aids or HIV. She and her daughter have been living in the United States for thirteen years without any problems.
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