If true, Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, both arrested in Manhattan after allegedly making sexual advances (and then some) on two members of hotel staff at NYC’s Pierre and Sofitel respectively, are both in serious criminal trouble. While the two men have much in common, both are top financial leaders and businessmen, foreign nationals and have an alleged libido that is likely slightly smaller than their egos, the outlook on their cases from purely a legal standpoint are drastically different. In other words, the former head of the International Money Fund and the current chairman of El-Mex Salines Company and former president of the Egyptian American Bank and the Federation of Egyptian Banks, are really in two different camps as far as what District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and his league of prosecutors may have in store.
Putting aside the provability and strength of each case (this is not something a criminal defense attorney would put aside, but for the sake of analyzing the charges) and keeping in mind that the information I have is from what I have read in press reports, the conduct of the two men appears drastically different. That is, Mr. Strauss-Kahn, known as DSK, allegedly had some form of oral sex and penetration in the mouth and attempted to rape the complainant maid. The basis behind the top offense charged against him is not the attempted rape, but that there was alleged oral sexual conduct as a result of forcible compulsion. This crime, Criminal Sexual Act in the First Degree (New York Penal Law 130.50), is a “B” felony punishable by up to twenty five years in state prison.
Unlike DSK, Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar “merely” could not keep his hands to himself. As I understand the allegations, and again, I am not privy to the police investigation, Abdel-Salam Omar forcibly fondled or groped the maid’s breasts. The likely top charge, in addition to a probable misdemeanor charge of Unlawful Imprisonment for “trapping” the woman in the hotel room, is Sexual Abuse in the First Degree (New York Penal Law 130.65). This crime is perpetrated when one, by forcible compulsion, subjects another person to sexual contact. A “D” felony, this crime is punishable by up to seven years in state prison.
The New York Penal Law defines “forcible compulsion” as a use of force or any type of threat that puts a person in fear of physical injury. “Sexual contact” is defined as a touching of the intimate or sexual parts of another person for the purpose of gratification or sexual desire. This person cannot be married to the accused. Moreover, this touching can occur through clothing.
I am confident that Adbel-Salam Omar will take a similar path in the defense of his case as DSK. While a touching will not likely result in DNA being preserved in any capacity, Abdel-Salam Omar will deny the offense and claim there is ulterior motive behind the maid’s allegations. After all, without DNA or any admission on his part, Abdel-Salam Omar will reduce this case to a “he said, said she said” with little to no physical corroboration. Only last week, a jury acquitted the “rape cops” of a sex crime against a woman where there was no physical or DNA corroboration, but other strong and damning evidence including an audio recording of an apparent admission. Furthermore, prosecutors had a video tape of the police officers returning to the scene of the alleged incident. District Attorney Vance has a stable of tremendous prosecutors, just like the experienced trial attorneys who handled the “rape cop” case. Unfortunately for Mr. Vance and Company, juries can be fickle in their desires for forensic evidence and overly influenced by what has become known as the “CSI effect.” Whether there is more evidence we do not know about or this case is solely based on the statement from the alleged victim, it is something that will likely guide law enforcement’s decision making process. Even if there is nothing beyond the complainant, sometimes prosecutors must take the difficult path in the face of a difficult case especially where not doing so might cause outrage in the community.
Whether the two men “hole up” in a a beautiful loft together as their respective cases play out, only time will tell. Like DSK, Adbel-Salam Omar will ultimately be granted bail, but will be required to turn over his passport. Whether Manhattan prosecutors rush into the Grand Jury with a seemingly weaker case and feel the pressure of public opinion, is an entirely different matter.
The New York criminal defense lawyers at Crotty Saland PC represent the accused throughout the New York City region. Prior to starting the criminal defense firm, both founding partners served in the Manhattan District Attorneys Office.
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