International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a hotel housekeeper, is being held without bail at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex while awaiting his next court appearance on May 20.
A Manhattan judge yesterday refused to release Strauss-Kahn, two days after he was pulled off an Air France flight as it prepared to leave John F. Kennedy International Airport. He faces as long as 25 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, said prosecutors, who convinced Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson that he may flee if freed.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, “restrained a hotel employee inside of the room,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Artie McConnell told the judge at a packed bail hearing in lower Manhattan. “He sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her. When he was unsuccessful, he forced her to perform oral sex on him.”
A potential candidate for the French presidency, Strauss-Kahn denies the accusations, said his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman. The IMF chief is charged with criminal sexual acts, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching, according to court papers. He didn’t enter a plea yesterday; Brafman has said he will plead not guilty. He is scheduled to return to court on May 20.
“He has almost no incentive to stay in this country,” McConnell told the judge, arguing for Strauss-Kahn to be held without bail. The prosecutor said France doesn’t extradite its own citizens. “If he went to France, we would have no legal mechanism that guarantees his return,” he said.
McConnell said the international dignitary has “substantial financial resources” and “an extensive network of contacts throughout the world.”
Brafman asked the judge to let his client stay with his daughter, who lives in Manhattan, while awaiting trial. Brafman told the judge that Strauss-Kahn was prepared to post $1 million bail from his wife, television journalist Anne Sinclair, who was flying to New York yesterday.
Strauss-Kahn was on his way to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he was taken into custody, Brafman said. After the hearing, Brafman told reporters at the courthouse that he would review the bail decision.
The alleged attack on a 32-year-old woman at a Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan occurred May 14, according to the New York Police Department. It took place after the woman entered Strauss-Kahn’s $3,000-a-night suite, where he had been staying since the day before, police said.
Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have emerged from a bathroom naked, New York Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said. The complaint says the alleged attack occurred around noon.
According to the criminal complaint, Strauss-Kahn “engaged in oral sexual conduct and anal sexual conduct with another person by forcible compulsion.” He allegedly closed the door of the room to keep the woman from leaving, grabbed her breasts and tried to pull down her pantyhose, according to court papers.
The maid escaped and notified co-workers who called the police, Browne said. The maid picked Strauss-Kahn out of a lineup, police said.
“The victim provided very powerful details consistent with violent sexual assault,” McConnell told the judge. He said her accounts are corroborated by findings in a hospital exam. He also said that while results aren’t back yet from the crime-scene unit’s processing of the hotel room, there may be forensic evidence supporting her version of events.
McConnell told the judge there had been a report that Strauss-Khan had “engaged in conduct similar to the conduct alleged in this complaint on at least one other occasion” outside the U.S.
Brafman said in court that he couldn’t respond to allegations made outside the U.S., adding that there wasn’t any criminal prosecution.
Strauss-Kahn gave police permission to examine him for physical evidence of scratches and DNA from his accuser, according to Brafman.
Every seat in the courtroom was full for yesterday’s bail hearing as the judge dealt with public-urination and drug-possession cases. When Strauss-Kahn’s case was called, more reporters, along with photographers, were allowed to stand in the room.
Air France Flight
When officers arrived at the hotel, Strauss-Kahn wasn’t there and his mobile phone was left behind, he said. Strauss-Kahn was later taken off the Air France flight by Port Authority police. He was held in a cell in an East Harlem precinct house, where the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit is located. The unit handles sex-crime cases.
New York police said Strauss-Kahn doesn’t have diplomatic immunity. The French Foreign Ministry in Paris said a French consul visited Strauss-Kahn in detention.
French law doesn’t allow extradition of its citizens to the U.S., according to Stephane Bonifassi, a white-collar crime lawyer in Paris. Were Strauss-Kahn to flee, France could offer to take up the prosecution, he said.
“We have a consistent itinerary where the defendant was, who he was with all during the succeeding hours, twelve noon until he arrived at Kennedy Airport,” Brafman told the judge, adding that the flight had been scheduled for days.
“When he gets to the airport, he gets a call from the hotel concerning his cell phone,” Brafman said. “He has more than one phone and tells them where he is. He makes arrangements to get the phone. This is not consistent with someone who is trying to conceal his whereabouts.”
Brafman said the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had his client’s only passport. The attorney said a laissez-passer travel document was in Strauss-Kahn’s Washington office and that William Taylor, his lawyer there, would take possession of it.
“This court’s decision is he is a flight risk and he is remanded,” Jackson said.
Brafman said he might come back with a bail package for possible consideration. He suggested an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet and a requirement that Strauss-Kahn stay in the U.S. might be included.
Strauss-Kahn will be held in protective custody in a single-person cell as he awaits trial, and kept away from other inmates when he’s out of his cell, Stephen Morello, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Correction, said in a telephone interview.
Morello said Strauss-Kahn was strip-searched and had to undergo physical and mental examinations before being moved to the West Facility at Rikers Island. West Facility primarily houses inmates with contagious diseases and can also be used for prisoners who need to be separated from others, he said.
Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex, lies off the shore of northern Queens opposite LaGuardia Airport. Its 415 acres house about 10 separate jails, according to the Department of Correction. There are more than 10,000 inmates on Rikers Island on a daily basis, Morello said. Detainees are entitled to three one-hour visits a week, not including attorney and physician visits.
If Strauss-Kahn arrived in time for dinner, he would have been served “turkey burgers with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots,” Morello said.
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 1225782, Criminal Court of the City of New York (New York County).