IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn Wants To Clear His Name
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Some other news: Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, say he will fight the charges that he sexually assaulted a housekeeper at a luxury Manhattan hotel. Yesterday, a judge denied a request for bail, and the Frenchman is now being held at the Riker's Island Jail in New York.
NPR's Joel Rose has our report.
JOEL ROSE: Dominique Strauss-Kahn looked weary and haggard as he stood before a criminal court judge in Manhattan at his arraignment on Monday. His lawyers offered to put up a million dollars in bail, but prosecutors argued that Strauss-Kahn was too much of a risk to flee, and a judge agreed.
Outside the courtroom, defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman vowed to fight the charges.
Mr. BENJAMIN BRAFMAN (Defense Lawyer): Mr. Strauss-Kahn is innocent of these charges. We think this case is very defensible. We do not believe he has any intention of every fleeing the jurisdiction. His principle intention is to try and clear his name and reestablish his good name.
ROSE: That may be a steep climb. Strauss-Kahn is one of the most famous men in France, and he had been considered a top candidate for the French presidency until this weekend. It was around noon on Saturday when the police got a call from the staff of the Sofitel Hotel in Midtown, alleging that Strauss-Kahn had assaulted a housekeeper in his luxury suite.
Mr. PAUL BROWN (Deputy Police Commissioner, NYPD): We began an immediate investigation into her account, which included that she had been sexually assaulted and held against her will.
ROSE: Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Brown says Strauss-Kahn seemed to have left the hotel in a hurry. In fact, he called the hotel to see if he'd left anything behind in his room. Brown says that's how police knew they would find Strauss-Kahn at JFK Airport on an Air France flight to Paris.
Mr. BROWN: We immediately began making a run to the airport. We arrived 10 minutes before the scheduled departure. The passengers had boarded. They were about to close the door when he was taken off the plane.
ROSE: Strauss-Kahn was then whisked from his seat in first class to the NYPD's Special Victims Unit in Harlem, where he was held for forensic tests on Sunday. Strauss-Kahn's lawyer says he was not trying to flee the country, and that his traveled plans had been set for some time. But Judge Melissa Jackson was not persuaded, noting that his presence on a flight at JFK Airport, quote, "raises some concern."
Legal analysts say Strauss-Kahn's lawyers will probably try again to get him freed on bail at another hearing scheduled for Friday by offering to submit to electronic monitoring, or to put up even larger sums of money and property. His lawyers could also try to claim diplomatic immunity for the Frenchman, but it won't be easy.
Professor DIANE MARIE AMANN (International Law, University of Georgia): It does not appear, at first blush, to be a viable avenue for defense for him.
ROSE: Diane Marie Amann teaches international law at the University of Georgia. In order to claim immunity, she says Strauss-Kahn's lawyers would likely have to show that he was acting in his official capacity as managing director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington.
Ms. AMANN: The most obviously available immunity would be one related to his official acts as the leader of the International Monetary Fund, and these allegations have nothing to do with that position.
ROSE: An IMF spokesman says Strauss-Kahn was in New York on personal, not official, business. If and when Strauss-Kahn does return to France, he'll likely find new sexual assault charges waiting for him there, too. Lawyers for French writer Tristan Banon say she intends to press charges against Strauss-Kahn for an attempted sexual assault that took place nine years ago.
Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.
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