Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund chief locked up at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex on charges of sexual assault and attempted rape, may still be able to arrange bail while awaiting trial.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, is accused of attacking a housekeeper at a midtown Manhattan hotel and forcing her to perform sex acts. His lawyer denies the charges. Strauss-Kahn was arrested May 14 and on May 16 ordered held without bail by Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Melissa Jackson after prosecutors said he was a flight risk. Strauss-Kahn, who was placed on a suicide watch in jail according to person familiar with the situation, is scheduled to return to court on May 20.
At the bail hearing, Benjamin Brafman, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, told the judge that the district attorney “invited me to come back to them with some sort of package we think they would be willing to consider.”
Assistant District Attorney John “Artie” McConnell told the judge that Strauss-Kahn, who was taken into custody on an Air France plane minutes before takeoff at John F. Kennedy International Airport, had every incentive to flee. If convicted of the most serious charges against him, he could be sentenced to as long as 25 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Brafman said his client was prepared to post $1 million bail, surrender his remaining travel documents and stay at his daughter’s home in New York.
Strauss-Kahn, who had been a possible contender for the French presidency, is now being held in single-person cell. At New York’s Rikers Island prison complex, he is being watched constantly and was given a specially designed prison jumpsuit and shoes without laces, said the person familiar with the matter. He hasn’t attempted to injure himself, said the person, who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public.
An assessment of Strauss-Kahn and other factors, including that it’s his first time in jail, led to the precaution, the person said.
“All inmate health records are confidential under the law,” the New York City Department of Correction said in an e-mailed statement in response to a call seeking comment. The department “follows the same protocol for the safety and security of all inmates, and the protocol dictates that every inmate is assessed for risk of harm to themselves and risk of harm to others,” it said in the e-mail.
Brafman declined to comment on the case.
‘Tricky Bail Issue’
France doesn’t extradite its own citizens, McConnell told the judge, and Strauss-Kahn, who previously served as France’s finance minister, has “substantial financial resources” and “an extensive network of contacts throughout the world.”
“It’s a very tricky bail issue, given his circumstances,” Charles Stillman, a New York defense attorney not involved in the case, said yesterday in a phone interview. “The guy should get out. By the same token, you do have to face the fact that he is a flight risk.”
Brafman asked the judge at the bail hearing if she would change her mind if Strauss-Kahn consented to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. Brafman, seeking to return to her courtroom with a revised proposal for a bail package, said he had previously considered electronic monitoring unnecessary and “prohibitively expensive.” Jackson declined to reconsider.
Electronic monitoring has sometimes been used with federal criminal defendants awaiting trial, including Martha Stewart, the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., who was convicted in 2004 of obstructing justice. Bernard Madoff, before pleading guilty to fraud in the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, wore an electronic monitor.
Erin Duggan, chief spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., declined to comment on the case or the matter of bail. She said the office rarely uses electronic monitoring.
Ira Judelson, a bail bondsman, said he had been contacted by Brafman to assist Strauss-Kahn and was standing by at the Manhattan criminal courthouse on May 15 and May 16.
“I was prepared to work with Ben,” he said. He said he didn’t know when the issue might be raised again.
Judelson said he had assisted state-court defendants whose bail conditions called for electronic monitoring, including Kristin Davis, who was accused of operating a $2 million-a-year prostitution ring. He said electronic monitoring can cost $17 a day.
Douglas T. Burns, a former federal prosecutor who is now a white-collar criminal defense lawyer in New York, said there were several ways to construct a bail package for Strauss-Kahn that could satisfy a judge. That could include $1 million cash bail plus electronic monitoring and the surrender of his passport, said Burns.
“Putting aside what he allegedly did, he’s a respectable citizen,” Burns said yesterday in a phone interview. “To immediately conclude the guy’s going to go on the lam is a little bit silly.”
He added, “I don’t see him laying around Riker’s Island for six months.”
A $1 million bond posted by Strauss-Kahn’s relatives could be seen by the judge as a more severe restriction on the defendant’s movements than if the money came from another source, said Steven Molo, a defense lawyer at New York-based MoloLamken LLP.
“One million dollars to one person is quite a bit of money and to another, not as much,” he said.
At the May 16 bail hearing, Brafman made an argument that may suggest the defense will claim the woman consented in the alleged incident.
“The forensic evidence, we believe are not consistent with forcible encounter,” Brafman told the judge. “This is a very, very defensible case.”
The 32-year-old hotel housekeeper who told police she was attacked by Strauss-Kahn had never crossed paths with him before, a lawyer representing the woman said.
“She did not know who he was and did not see him before,” Jeffrey Shapiro, the woman’s lawyer, said yesterday in a phone interview. Shapiro, a personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer at New York’s Jeffrey J. Shapiro & Associates LLC, said he was introduced to the woman by a friend and is offering her counsel.
After Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, the IMF appointed Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky as acting managing director.
“We are aware of widespread speculation about the managing director’s status,” William Murray, an IMF spokesman, said in a press statement yesterday. “We have no comment on this speculation, other than to note, as we did earlier this week, that the executive board was briefed informally on developments regarding his arrest in New York.”
The IMF’s executive board, meeting in Washington, agreed to seek contact with Strauss-Kahn about his intentions, according to an official briefed on the deliberations.
U.S. Senator Mark Kirk wants Meg Lundsager, the U.S. executive director of the IMF, to seek Strauss-Kahn’s resignation, the lawmaker’s spokeswoman said.
Kirk, an Illinois Republican who serves on a Senate appropriations subcommittee that has partial oversight of the IMF, is also seeking hearings on how the international fund has managed the European debt crisis, his spokeswoman, Kate Dickens, said yesterday in an e-mail.
Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn was spending a second night at Rikers Island, where inmates are routinely awakened for breakfast between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.
“He passed the night uneventfully,” Stephen Morello, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Correction, said in a phone interview after Strauss-Kahn’s first night in jail.
The case is People v. Strauss-Kahn, 1225782, Criminal Court of the City of New York (New York County).