Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be released on $1-million bail
Shorn of his job and much of his reputation, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is expected to walk out of jail Friday and into house arrest after a judge approved $1-million bail and $5-million bond while the French political celebrity fights charges that he sexually assaulted a hotel chambermaid.
Prosecutors said Thursday that a grand jury had voted to press charges against Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund who had been considered a leading contender to be the next president of France, on four felony counts and three misdemeanors stemming from a weekend incident at the Sofitel hotel in New York. He has been held in the city lockup on Rikers Island.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was ordered to appear in court for arraignment on June 6.
There has been widespread criticism in France of an American system that would put such a prominent politician on public display, including parading him in handcuffs past the news media and allowing cameras in the courtroom.
“Fairness and impartiality in our American criminal justice system has been the bedrock of our democracy for more than 200 years. It has been rigorously upheld in New York courts, and by our office,” Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance Jr. said after Thursday’s bail hearing in remarks that seemed a response.
Lawyers representing Strauss-Kahn had proposed the $1 million in cash bail, 24-hour-a-day guards and electronic monitoring in an apartment rented this week by his wife.
Anne Sinclair, Strauss-Kahn’s third wife and a former French television personality, was in the packed Manhattan courtroom along with his 26-year-old daughter, Camille. Throughout the proceedings, the women sat clutching hands in the first row while reporters watched their every reaction. Strauss-Kahn blew his wife and daughter a kiss and waved when he was escorted in and out of the courtroom.
Clean-shaven and wearing a gray suit with a light blue button-down shirt and no tie, Strauss-Kahn looked far better than he had Monday at an initial arraignment.
In arguing for his client’s release, attorney William W. Taylor III noted that other high-profile suspects, including disgraced Wall Street financier Bernard L. Madoff, had been released under similar monitoring. The defense even hired the same company that Madoff had used to handle Strauss-Kahn’s security, which is expected to cost him $200,000 a month.
Taylor also said although Strauss-Kahn would adhere to all restrictions, they were not necessary because he had no intention of running away.
“He is an honorable man and he will appear. He has only one interest, and that is to clear his name,” the attorney said. “I have to say that the prospect of Mr. Strauss-Kahn teleporting himself to France and living there as an accused sex offender, fugitive, is ludicrous on its face.”
Before granting him bail, New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus told Strauss-Kahn that the extreme conditions were not set to extract money from him but to assure his appearance in court while the criminal claims were resolved.
“Money alone is not going to be sufficient to give us the assurances,” said Obus, who added the $5-million bond requirement. “It is primarily these other conditions that will simply make it impossible for you to leave.”
Assistant Dist. Atty. John McConnell, who had opposed bail, said Strauss-Kahn had “shown a propensity to impulsive criminal conduct … and a bracelet with a battery are not sufficient to assure he returns. … He has the stature and resources not only to be a fugitive on the run but to live in ease and comfort.”
McConnell also said the $1 million proposed by the defense was not sufficient in light of the severity of the charges and complained that the prosecution could not ascertain Strauss-Kahn’s assets. Taylor said that Strauss-Kahn had a bank account with cash “in the low seven figures” but that his wife, the daughter of a famous French art dealer, was worth considerably more. (She owns their $4-million house in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood, a chic apartment in Paris and a vacation home in Marrakesh, Morocco.)
Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody by police Saturday night aboard a Paris-bound plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport. A 32-year-old French-speaking maid who immigrated to the United States seven years ago from Guinea claimed she was cleaning his room when he sexually assaulted her. She told police that Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from his luxury suite’s bathroom, chased her, tried to rape her and forced her to perform oral sex. She says she broke free and fled.
During the hearing Thursday, the prosecutor recounted her story of the encounter and said that she had not wavered under repeated questioning. “While the investigation is still in its early stages, the proof against [Strauss-Kahn] is substantial and it is continuing to grow every day,” McConnell said.
Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys have denied that the evidence was consistent with a forcible encounter, raising the possibility that the defense might argue that the sex was consensual.
Countering the prosecutor’s assertion that Strauss-Kahn was seen in a hotel video “hastily” trying to get away from a scene he would regret, Taylor said that after his client left the hotel he was heading to lunch with a family member and then to a “long-scheduled” trip that would take him to Paris and then to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the European debt crisis.
Strauss-Kahn resigned Wednesday as managing director of the IMF.
Baum reported from New York and Muskal from Los Angeles