IMF chief gets $1 million bail in sex assault case
NEW YORK (AFP) – Dominique Strauss-Kahn was set for release on bail Friday, allowing the once powerful IMF chief to be reunited with his family for the first time since his arrest on sex assault charges.
A New York court ordered him to be released as early as Friday on condition he put up $1 million cash bail and a $5 million bond, wear an electronic ankle bracelet, surrender all travel documents and live under 24-hour house arrest.
The break for the embattled French politician, who has stepped down as the head of the International Monetary Fund, meant he will leave jail and rejoin his wife Anne Sinclair and daughter Camille, who were both in court Thursday.
But in a setback for Strauss-Kahn, 62, the court heard that a grand jury has voted to indict him on all seven sex crime charges related to his alleged attempt to rape a maid at Manhattan’s luxury Sofitel hotel on Saturday.
That means his case will go to trial unless he pleads guilty.
Strauss-Kahn, until now seen as a serious contender as the next president of France, was spending one more night in the tough surroundings of New York’s Rikers Island jail pending the signing of the bail package.
He has been kept in an isolation cell in the complex since the judge at an earlier hearing ruled him likely to try to flee the country.
Meanwhile, the scandal and his resignation has led to jockeying around the world for a replacement IMF chief, just as the international organization is steering delicate negotiations on the eurozone debt crisis.
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has been widely tipped, but there have been widespread calls for the institution to revamp how it chooses it managing director to end Europe’s decades-old monopoly on the top post.
Strauss-Kahn, facing up to 74 years prison if convicted on all charges, denies the alleged assault against the maid, a 32-year-old from Guinea.
He has not yet entered a formal not guilty plea, but that would likely come at his next court appearance on June 6, when the grand jury indictment against him is unsealed.
At Thursday’s hearing, hordes of journalists besieged the courthouse and packed into the courtroom where Strauss-Kahn exchanged several quick looks with his wealthy, American-born wife, French television journalist Sinclair.
Wearing a clean shirt and suit without a tie, Strauss-Kahn blew a kiss to his wife, who responded in kind. During attorneys’ arguments, Sinclair sat holding hands with Strauss-Kahn’s daughter by another marriage, Camille.
The prosecution contends that Strauss-Kahn was seen rushing from his hotel room on Saturday and later detained aboard an Air France flight minutes before take-off. It argued he remained a flight risk and should stay in jail.
“The proof against him is substantial. It continues to grow every day,” Assistant District Attorney John McConnell said.
Defense lawyer William Taylor urged the judge to grant Strauss-Kahn bail, assuring the court that the veteran French politician was an “honorable man.”
Judge Michael Obus opted for bail with strict conditions. Strauss-Kahn will live in 24-hour confinement in a New York apartment, with video cameras and an armed security guard.
McConnell said it would cost “in excess of $200,000 a month” to pay for the tight security to meet the bail conditions.
The decision was welcomed by the defense team, but Jeff Shapiro, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn’s accuser, said his client, who has so far not been identified, was “alarmed” at the prospect of her alleged attacker leaving jail.
“The idea that this man would somehow or another be on the streets and free, I’m sure it would cause her a great deal of concern,” he told CNN Wednesday. “She’s very concerned about her security.”
She alleges that Strauss-Kahn groped and mauled her in his room in the posh Sofitel hotel in Times Square and forcibly tried to have oral sex with her. She testified before the grand jury that later decided to send the case to trial.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said earlier this week the evidence “will not be consistent with a forcible encounter.”
The IMF has said next to nothing about the case or the looming succession battle, but this week it published its new official code of conduct setting guidelines on workplace relationships and sexual harassment.
The code was approved May 6 but publicized Thursday for unclear reasons.