Review of Room 2806: The Accusation rating *****
An uneducated immigrant brings down one of the most powerful men in the world. That is the theme in this excellent four-part Netflix docuseries.
Before Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, R Kelly, and a host of other powerful men brought down by women in sexual assault cases, there was the story Dominique Strauss-Kahn (also referred to as DSK). Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); he was also on track to become France’s next president.
On May 14, 2011, police arrested Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid named Nafissatou Diallo. The incident occurred at the Sofitel hotel in New York City. The documentary lays out the facts of the case against DSK, the subsequent investigations, and the efforts by DSK’s legal team to discredit the victim. While you might expect that a man with the resources of DSK would try to discredit the accuser, you wouldn’t expect that the New York prosecutor’s office would be the ones doing the discrediting. But that’s what happened in this case.
DSK’s arrest was a big story at the time. The filmmakers show how the story was covered by the media both here and in France. As is the case with almost all sexual assault cases, it is a he said she said type of crime. Who are you going to believe? A man destined to become the president of France? Or a low-wage worker who can’t read or write?
The New York prosecutor hires an ex-New York-detective to dig into the backgrounds of both individuals. He does not have any experience investigating sexual assault cases. He forms an impression early on that something isn’t right. He uncovers the fact that Nafissatou lied on her application for asylum, claiming sexual assault in her home country. That lie plays a factor in the outcome. If she lied about sexual assault then, how can you believe her now?
It’s easy to see how the defense could use that single lie to discredit the victim. But as the lawyers representing Nafissatou point out, the facts of the case don’t support DSK’s version of events. For one thing, DSK is the one who has a history of deviant sexual behavior. The entire incident took just nine minutes. No jury would conclude that Nafissatou Diallo entered a man’s hotel suite and consensually agree to a sexual encounter that lasted nine minutes, and then only admit to what happened after being pressed by a supervisor.
Then there were the conspiracy theories. The whole thing was a setup. Nafissatou Diallo was part of a plot to bring down DSK. She was a prostitute. The Sofitel hotel, where the incident took place, was nothing more than a high-priced prostitution ring, where all the maids were prostitutes. Nafissatou Diallo planned the whole thing to extort money from DSK.
On top of these ridiculous claims, were the many people who tried to dismiss the whole thing as much to do about nothing. So what if he had sex with a maid? He has a strong sexual appetite. He likes women.
In the end, Nafissatou Diallo came out victorious despite the absence of a criminal trial. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a failed politician who thought he was above the law. His wife divorced him. His political career crashed and burned. His two defense lawyers Benjamin Brafman and William W. Taylor III came across as arrogant and clueless. And Nafissatou Diallo came out with enough money to keep her and her daughter financially independent.