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Media convictions often as bad as criminal convictions: Part I

In previous posts, we have said that there are certain crimes for which a public accusation can be as bad as a criminal conviction. This is especially true when it comes to sex crimes. Those who face false accusations can nonetheless face real consequences, even if they are not convicted.

The best recent example of this is the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK). In May, he was arrested and charged with the alleged rape of a housekeeper who cleaned his luxury hotel suite.

DSK has always denied the allegations against him. Now, major news outlets are reporting that the charges may soon be dropped due to his accuser's lack of credibility.

The housekeeper alleged that DSK grabbed her by the hair and forced her to perform oral sex. This contradicts a written account of the alleged assault compiled by a rape counselor who treated the woman. The counselor's report says that the Strauss-Kahn allegedly put his hands underneath the housekeeper's clothes and touched her genital area.

There are inconsistencies in other details as well, including the housekeeper's whereabouts and actions immediately after the incident. Prosecutors have also admitted that the woman has lied on her taxes and an asylum application.

For these reasons, charges are expected to be dropped. A top investigator told the New York Post: "Her credibility is so bad now, we know we cannot sustain a case with her." But even if charges are dropped, DSK still has a lot to lose.

Strauss-Kahn is a very high-profile figure internationally. Until charges were filed against him, he was the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Many also considered him a strong future candidate for the French presidency.

As a result of the charges, he resigned as head of the IMF. He may still have a political future in French politics, but the charges against him have damaged his reputation and may have jeopardized that future.

False charges can still have real consequences. Check back later this week as we discuss how the media plays a role in convicting a suspect in the court of public opinion.

Source: Google News, "US charges against ex-IMF chief to be dropped: report," 05 July 2011

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