Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund accused of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper, was granted bail Thursday even as prosecutors said a grand jury voted to indict him on seven counts.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who had been favored in most French polls to defeat President Nicolas Sarkozy as the Socialist Party candidate in 2012 elections, has been in police custody ever since being pulled off a flight to France May 14.
On Thursday, New York State Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus gave Strauss-Kahn a get out of jail card as long as he posted a $1 million cash bail, agreed to wear an electronic monitoring device, surrendered all his passports to the government, and hired armed guards to make sure he does not violate his house arrest. He was also required to post a $5 million bond.
At the same time, prosecutors announced that a Manhattan Grand Jury voted to indict the IMF’s former managing director on seven charges, including four felonies and three misdemeanors. The felonies reportedly include attempt to commit rape and criminal sexual acts and sexual abuse. Strauss-Kahn, who is maintaining his innocence, is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, when the indictment will be unsealed.
Granting Strauss-Kahn bail might help to calm French anger since many French citizens were appalled to see an individual who was so highly regarded in politics being held at Rikers Island, New York’s jail.
The bail agreement will reunite Strauss-Kahn with his wife, Ann Sinclair, an American-born journalist, and his daughter, who is a graduate student in New York.
On Thursday, prosecutors continued to maintain he was a flight risk and opposed the bail package. A key factor is that France will not extradite its own citizens.
“Our position is there is no bail package at this time that would ensure his return,” said Assistant District Attorney John McConnell. “This court must be satisfied that he will come back.... His own conduct in this case has shown a propensity for impulsive criminal conduct.”
In his letter of resignation to the IMF on Wednesday, Strauss-Kahn said he wanted to devote all his strength, time and energy to proving his innocence.
“I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me,” he wrote.
At the hearing, prosecutors maintained their case was growing stronger and that the forensic evidence would help them prove their case.
Outside lawyers say it’s normal for individuals accused of sexual assault to have some kind of bail set.
“It’s a serious crime obviously, but in the overwhelming majority of cases a judge will set some kind of bail,” says Alan Kaufman, a former federal prosecutor, now a partner at the New York law firm Kelley Drye & Warren. “He is entitled to some bail but the purpose is to assure he appears in court when he is required to.”
For example, after Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault in July of 2003, he was released on $25,000 bail. Those charges were ultimately dropped in 2004.
It will still be some time until Strauss-Kahn’s case actually goes to trial.
“Unless there is a plea nothing happens within six months and a year,” says James Cohen, associate professor of law at Fordham University in New York. “The prosecution will be finishing up all the forensics – only on ‘CSI’ do they give you a phone call after it’s finished – and will be re-interviewing witnesses.”
The defense will spend a lot of effort researching the background of the housekeeper who is alleging the assault, says Mr. Cohen.
“They will make it look like she’s lying, they will put her through a lot,” he says.
The housekeeper has apparently already hired her own lawyer who may file a civil lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point one of her representatives reached out to see what kind of numbers are on the table,” says Cohen. If the sum were large enough, he says, then the housekeeper might suddenly decide that it was all some misunderstanding. “It sounds sinister, but money can do that,” he says.
After the Bryant case was dropped, he settled a civil suit that was filed by the complainant.
If the hotel housekeeper does sue Strauss-Kahn, the civil lawsuit can be used in the criminal defense to potentially impugn the alleged victim’s motive. However, Cohen says, if Strauss-Kahn did commit the crime, “she deserves a sizeable sum of money.”