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NEW YORK — Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn walked out of court free on bail Friday after prosecutors said an extensive background investigation of the hotel housekeeper accusing him of sexual assault gave them pause.
The charges against Strauss-Kahn, which include attempted rape, have not been reduced, but the move signals that prosecutors do not believe the accusations are as ironclad as they once seemed.
He had been under pricey house arrest for weeks in a ritzy Manhattan loft on $6 million in cash and bond.
The 32-year-old hotel maid accused Strauss-Kahn of chasing her through his luxury suite in May, trying to pull down her pantyhose and forcing her to perform oral sex.
"It is a great relief," said Strauss-Kahn's attorney, William Taylor, adding that the case underscores "how easy it is for people to be charged with serious crimes and for there to be a rush to judgment."
"It is so important in this country that people, especially the media, refrain from judgment until the facts are all in," he said.
Strauss-Kahn arrived at the courthouse Friday morning in a Lexus SUV and strode confidently up the granite steps with his wife, French journalist Anne Sinclair, at his side. He wore a dark gray suit, and she a white jacket.
After the hearing, he walked slowly out with his arm on her shoulder, smiling slightly at the throng gathered outside.
His passport remained surrendered, and he will not yet be allowed to leave the country. His other attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said Strauss-Kahn would be free to travel within the United States.
Investigators have come to believe that the accuser lied about some of her activities in the hours around the alleged attack and about her own background, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press on Thursday. The official is familiar with the case but spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public in court.
Prosecutors think she lied about details on her application for asylum in the U.S., including saying she had been raped in her native Guinea, the official told the AP.
The accuser's attorney, Ken Thompson, fired back outside court and said she went to the district attorney with information that her application was flawed because she was concerned she otherwise would be sent back to Guinea.
"It is clear that this woman made some mistakes, but that doesn't mean she's not a rape victim," he said.
He said she came to the U.S. because she was a victim of genital mutilation and worried that her daughter, now 15, would be victimized as well. He also said she had been raped by soldiers there, but not as it was written in her asylum application.
He also laid out details she described of an attack by Strauss-Kahn in the Sofitel suite and said her account has remained consistent.
"From day one has described a violent sexual assault that Dominique Strauss-Kahn committed against her," attorney Ken Thompson said.
Thompson took a throng of reporters outside court through the details of the incident from his client's perspective, saying Strauss-Kahn bruised her genitals, tore a ligament in her shoulder and ripped her stockings.
"She has described that sexual assault many times, to prosecutors and to me, and she has never once changed a single thing about that encounter," he said.
He also addressed media reports that his client was involved with a drug dealer, calling them lies.
The New York Times, quoting law enforcement officials it didn't name, reported that the woman was recorded on the phone with an incarcerated man around the day she made the allegations, discussing whether to press her case in court.
The newspaper said the man had been arrested on marijuana possession charges and had deposited cash in the woman's bank account.