Judge Denies Bail to I.M.F. Chief in Sexual Assault Case

John Eligon – New York Times May 16, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the leader of the International Monetary Fund, was ordered on Monday to be held without bail over allegations that he had sexually assaulted a maid in a $3,000-a-night suite at a Midtown hotel.

 Prosecutors had asked the judge, Melissa C. Jackson, supervising judge of Manhattan Criminal Court, to remand Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, contending that he was a flight risk. They also indicated that a similar attack may have occurred.

“Some of this information include reports that he has in fact engaged in conduct similar to the conduct alleged in this complaint on at least one other occasion,” said John McConnell, an assistant district attorney, adding that the district attorney’s office was still investigating the other occasion, which occurred outside the United States.

In opposing bail, prosecutors highlighted the serious nature of the allegations.

“The defendant restrained a hotel employee inside of his room,” Mr. McConnell said. “He sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her,” and when that failed, he forced her to perform oral sex.

Mr. McConnell also said that he saw video of Mr. Strauss-Kahn leaving the Sofitel New York after the alleged attack.

“He appears to be a man who was in a hurry,” Mr. McConnell said.

The criminal complaint says that Mr. Strauss-Kahn shut the door and prevented the woman from leaving, grabbing her breasts, attempting to pull down her pantyhose, grabbing her crotch and forcing her to perform oral sex.

Benjamin Brafman, one of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, argued that “there is a very, very defensible case and he should be entitled to bail,” asking that his client be allowed to post $1 million bail. He said his wife would provide the money. She was scheduled to arrive in New York from Paris at 1 p.m., Mr. Brafman said.

He added that his client was not trying to flee when he was arrested on an Air France plane that was about to take off from Kennedy International Airport on Saturday.

Mr. Brafman said that Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s travel plans had been set for some time, and he indicated that there was evidence that between the time of the alleged attack and his flight, Mr. Strauss-Kahn was in the area, taking care of other business.

He also said that his client had a lunch meeting in the area of the hotel and that his lunch partner would be able to testify. In addition, he said, the hotel security found out he was at the airport only after they called him and he told them where he was.

“That’s not consistent with someone who’s trying to conceal his whereabouts, and get on a flight and leave,” Mr. Brafman said.

But prosecutors said that Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resources, the lack of an extradition treaty between the United States and France and the defendant’s history were all reasons that he should not be granted bail.

Indeed, Judge Jackson, before ordering remand, indicated that she was concerned about Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s needing to be stopped at the airport.

“When I hear that your client was at J.F.K. Airport about to board a flight, that raises some concern,” she said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn has been charged with various counts of sexual assault including attempted rape, sexual abuse and criminal sexual act. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

After Judge Jackson announced that Mr. Strauss-Kahn would be held without bail, Mr. Brafman asked if she would be amenable to changing her decision if he were able to strike a deal with the Manhattan district attorney’s office in which his client would wear an ankle monitor. Judge Jackson indicated that she would not change her ruling, meaning that Mr. Brafman may have to make a bail appeal to the appellate court.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court, which lasted only 26 minutes, capped a 43-hour odyssey through New York’s criminal system. He was arrested, held in a special cell in East Harlem, placed in a police lineup, and submitted to a forensic medical exam for possible evidence. He even was subjected to a ritual familiar to high-profile suspects: the so-called perp walk, providing newspapers around the world with a front-page picture of Mr. Strauss-Kahn being led away from a police station in handcuffs.

He first appeared in Criminal Court at 10:49 a.m., brought in from the back-room cells to the gasp of a rows packed tightly with reporters. Some stood up to get a glimpse of him as he sat on a bench with other defendants. Court officers quickly admonished the reporters to sit down.

But just eight minutes after he had been brought into the courtroom, Mr. Strauss-Kahn was ushered back out by a police officer wearing a short-sleeved polo shirt, signaling an even further delay in the arraignment.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn looked just as he had the day before — in a dark, full-length coat, hands cuffed behind his back and a stern gaze on his face.

The long wait for Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arraignment unfolded as an international corps of reporters, photographers and camera crews were crowded outside the courtroom because there was not enough seating to accommodate everyone.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser picked him out of a lineup in East Harlem, where he was being held at the Special Victims Unit, and new details emerged on how he came to be taken into custody.

The authorities said they had moved to obtain a court order granting them a search warrant to examine Mr. Strauss-Kahn for signs of injury that he might have suffered during a struggle or for traces of his accuser’s DNA.

“Things like getting things from under the fingernails,” a law enforcement official explained, “the classic things you get in association with a sex assault.”

 The official, who insisted on anonymity because the investigation was continuing, added that since there was a high likelihood that Mr. Strauss-Kahn would be allowed to post bail, investigators feared that he might leave the country with whatever clues his body might provide.

As the court order was being sought, the woman who told the police on Saturday that she had been attacked by Mr. Strauss-Kahn picked him from the lineup on Sunday, the police said. 

After identifying Mr. Strauss-Kahn about 4:30 p.m., the woman, a maid at the Sofitel New York on West 44th Street, where Mr. Strauss-Kahn was a guest, left the Special Victims Unit in a police van. A blanket was covering her head.

The law enforcement official said that the police were called to the hotel about 1:30 on Saturday, but that when they arrived, Mr. Strauss-Kahn had already checked out. At some point, Mr. Strauss-Kahn called the hotel and said that his cellphone was missing. Detectives then coached hotel employees to tell him, falsely, that they had the telephone. According to the law enforcement official, Mr. Strauss-Kahn told them he was at Kennedy Airport about to get on a plane.

The police have provided few details about the woman at the center of the case beyond saying she was 32 and an African immigrant.

According to the law enforcement official, the woman entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite early Saturday afternoon by saying “housekeeping.” She heard no answer. She left the door open behind her, as is hotel policy.

She went to the bedroom and saw a man rush from the bathroom to the bedroom, naked. She apologized, the law enforcement official said, and tried to leave.

But according to the official, the man ran after her, grabbed her and shut the door, locking it. He then pulled her toward the bedroom, the official said, and tried to attack her there.

He pulled her to the bathroom, the official added, and forced her to perform oral sex. The police said the woman eventually escaped from the suite and reported the attack to other hotel personnel, who called 911.

Reporting was contributed by Al Baker, Joseph Goldstein, Colin Moynihan, William K. Rashbaum, Nate Schweber, Mosi Secret and Rebecca White.

Source 

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.