Reversal of Fortune was title of a book and movie about a trial for attempted murder that yielded a surprising outcome. Claus von Bulow, an Austrian aristocrat-turned socialite husband, was eventually acquitted of charges that he tried to kill his wife Sunny by injecting her with an overdose of insulin. High-profile Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz defended van Bulow and wrote a book about it.
A film version appeared a few years later. Jeremy Irons played Claus van Bulow and Glenn Close was cast as Sunny. Ron Silver was in the role of Dershowitz. I saw the film at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis on a very cold December night in 1990.
In May, New York police arrested Strauss-Kahn, the powerful chairman of the International Monetary and likely French presidential candidate, on charges that he sexually assaulted a hotel chambermaid. After being pulled off of an Air France jet and jailed, Strauss-Kahn was paraded past the press — as any other defendant in America could be.
Many French people reacted with anti-American suspicion and considerable disgust at this treatment. After all, Mr. Strauss-Kahn may have been accused of rape, but he had not yet been proven guilty.
Within a little over three months, prosecutors in New York had dropped the charges entirely. They had completely lost confidence in the truthfulness of the testimony of the maid who leveled the charges against Strauss-Kahn. This was certainly a reversal of fortune for the prosecutors, who were left with the proverbial egg on their faces.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn returned to France, but did not step right back into his former, power-broker life. For one thing, he still faces a civil suit brought by the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, who has made her name public.
Diallo's civil case is scarcely Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s only concern. There is also, well, the state of his soul. Could this have been on Strauss-Kahn’s mind when confessed in a television interview to “moral failing” in his hotel room encounter with Ms. Diallo?
Yet even as Strauss-Kahn seeks to reassert his moral self, the swirl of moral degradation increasingly seems to surround him. Various press reports have tried to link him to the operation of an alleged prostitution ring in the city of Lille. This alone may be lurid enough to attract movie interests, and indeed the Internet contains unbounded speculation about a possible porn film based upon these events.
For Dominque Strauss-Kahn, then, there have been numerous reversals of fortune in the last six months. And there are probably many more to come.