Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brigitte Guillemette's Story

Brigitte Guillemette is DSK's second wife and the godmother of his French accuser, Tristane Banon. Her version of the relationship between herself and Anne Mansouret and her daughter and Tristane Banon is very different from the version given by Mansouret and Banon. The two older women were not close friends, according to Guillemette, and she is Banon's "godmother" only because she was asked to accept as a favor to Mansouret, who claimed not to know any other baptized Catholics. Banon, moreover, barely knew Camille, the daughter of DSK and Guillemette, when she announced that Camille's father had attempted to rape her. Indeed, she had only two contacts with Camille, and it's not clear whether both or only the second occurred after the alleged attack, which Banon revealed during the second meeting. (Parenthetically, I find it quite strange that a woman who had been attacked by DSK would seek out his daughter, whom she barely knew, to inform her of her father's assault.) All of this is quite far from the account we had been hitherto given of the relationships among the four women.

There is also this curious passage in Guillemette's account: "J’ai rencontré Anne Mansoureh-Riahi (c’est ainsi qu’elle se présentait à l’époque) ..." Are we to infer that Mansouret changed her name to one that is "more French?" Mansouret was born in Iran. So the subtext of Guillemette's story is that she was doing a favor for an Iranian woman she barely knew and who knew no baptized Catholics capable of serving as godmother to her daughter (who was 18 at the time of her baptism).


Mitch Guthman said...

I thought we’d already reached “peak weirdness” in this case but evidently not. Right now, it looks like either Tristane Banon and her mother (and their strange lawyer) are using the courts to shake down a pillar of French establishment or the classe politique is busy circling the wagons. At this moment, I am dazed, confused and have no idea which is which. I think we should just wait for somebody, somewhere to produce some actual evidence before reaching any judgments about specific events.

I am slightly concerned about the fact that Cyrus Vance is meeting with the lawyers for the potential witnesses. This is a very bad idea for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that it means that there is an intermediately between the prosecutor and his witness. That is nearly always trouble especially if, as expected, the defense is that these are false charges brought by the maid to use the justice system to shake down DSK for a civil settlement after a conviction.

Worse, it looks to me like he is giving Kenneth Thompson some kind of semiofficial role as a part of the prosecution team. I’m very uncomfortable with anything that even gives the appearance that a member of the prosecution team might be seen as orchestrating the entire case for his professional and financial gain. I do not feel that it is appropriate for the District Attorney, who prosecutes in the name of the people and for the people, to associate himself in this way with a witness’s civil lawyer. I hope that DSK’s lawyers will raise this issue at the next hearing and that the judge will force Vance to clarify Thompson’s role.

Anonymous said...

Mitch, could Thompson have asked to attend as it pertains to his client?
The French papers titled "Banon's Lawyer gives nothing" but reported the meeting lasted 3 hours. What do you make of it? 3 hours seems an awful long time to say nothing and give nothing.
Guillemette's account sounds very weird when you read it. It's like she's throwing her goddaughter under the bus. The part when she says "Mansoureh-Riahi" deliberately points to Mansouret being a foreigner, which you know how it plays in France these days. Not just a foreigner, but a Muslim - whose daughter was trying an ultra-conservative catholic conversion/baptism to impress a boy.
I also find it strange that Camille and Tristane would be friends, being 6 years apart, but even stranger that she'd ring her up out of the blue.
They may have run in the same circles but it wouldn't be enough for this kind of casual encounter and intimate revelation, would it?

Mitch Guthman said...

1. Yes, Vance might have asked Thompson to attend but that begs the question of why he wants the victim’s lawyer present at a meeting with Banon’s lawyer. At first glance, it looks like he’s trying to coordinate the civil suits against DSK as part of a pressure campaign to induce a plea from him. If that’s what’s going on, it’s very troubling on many levels.

The other thing I’m wondering about again is the question of discovery in French courts. In this country, there’s basically nothing remotely analogous in criminal cases to the kind of wide-ranging pre-trial discovery available in civil cases. In civil cases, you can compel testimony and the turning over of documents. Pretty much all of each side’s evidence, witnesses, and reports of experts, etc has to be turned over almost at the start of the case. By contrast, there is very little that the prosecution has to turn over in a criminal case and there is no right for the defense to interview the prosecution’s witnesses, let alone compel them to submit to being questioned under oath in advance of the trial. It’s possible that this could be something that blows up on Vance, like the perp walk and the pre-trial detention. I think he did those things because he thought they would generate momentum for an inevitable plea but when DSK didn’t fold, they turned into public relations disasters for Vance.

But I certainly think we’re entitled to know the extent to which Thompson is being permitted to participate in shaping the prosecution’s strategy and goals. I suppose it’s too much to expect a reporter to ask Vance what’s going on but maybe DSK’s lawyer can raise the question at the next court hearing. I think it’s important for the health of the justice system to have this sorted out and that’s true regardless of DSK’s guilt or innocence.

2. As to the Guillemette business, my reactions were exactly the same as yours. Nothing about this case or the people in it or their reactions seems normal to me. I'm not French and I don't understand their culture very well yet so perhaps what I see as weirdness is simply a part of their culture but, even so, I find the reactions of all of the participants to be totally baffling.

And yet, I’m sort of getting a feeling that the classe politique sees itself as a sort of “political aristocracy” in which the immigrant interloper “Mansoureh-Riahi” and her social striving daughter are arrivistes who do not seem to understand that they are in a subservient role to the established members of the class (and especially to the men). They are expected to work hard, be sexually available to their betters and to always know their place.

(Which might help to explain why I get this sense of anger and resentment that seems to radiate from Tristane Banon and her mother).

On the whole, I must say that the leadership of the PS has been a great disappointment to me. They seem like a very inbred lot who believe in nothing except themselves and who find the actual business of politics to be distasteful and really a bit beneath them.