Judge Michael Obus set bail terms of $1m in cash as well as $5m in an insurance bond set against the international politician’s properties in the US. He also demanded that Strauss-Kahn surrender all his travel documents and that he remain under house arrest in Manhattan under 24-hour armed guard.
The ruling, issued at a Manhattan criminal court, will release the former IMF chief from his humiliating custody on Rikers Island, where he was held since being arrested on Saturday accused of having attacked a hotel maid.
Strauss-Kahn attended the hearing wearing a grey suit and light grey shirt.
The judge said he had based his decision on the sole concern of the court: that Strauss-Kahn return to court to face justice.
It was revealed during the proceedings that the grand jury of 23 members that has been sitting this week to consider the case against Strauss-Kahn has voted for an indictment to proceed against him. The precise terms of the indictment, including three counts of violent crimes, are likely to remain undisclosed until he is formally arraigned within the next 10 days, but it removes a major hurdle to the economist facing trial.
According to the charge sheet compiled by police, Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting the hotel maid who came into his room at the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan last Saturday lunchtime. The woman entered the room thinking it was empty. Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have come out of the bathroom naked and locked the door to the room before sexually assaulting her twice, once in the main room and once in the bathroom.
Representing the defendant, William Taylor argued to the court that Strauss-Kahn was an “honourable man” who had only one desire at this time, “to clear his name”. He presented the judge with the details of a New York security company, Stroz Friedberg, that would be responsible for ensuring that the former IMF chief would not flee the country.
Stringent conditions would include an electronic bracelet that would send a signal to the company and a police station the moment Strauss-Kahn left the property, video cameras to monitor him inside the property, and a 24-hour rotation of armed guards who would be physically present at the apartment.
Taylor said that Strauss-Kahn’s wife, Anne Sinclair, had bought a property in Manhattan under her name, and that it had been scoped out and approved by the security company as a suitable location for him to remain under house arrest.
“There is nothing more restrictive that can be accomplished along these lines,” Taylor said, adding that a large cash sum, believed to be $1m, had also been proposed as surety. But he complained that the prosecutors’ response had been “no, no, no, not that there has been any question of credibility of these conditions. That position is unfair.”
Taylor pointed to Sinclair and Strauss-Kahn’s daughter Camille, both of whom were sitting in court holding each other’s hand. The lawyer referred to the two women as the defendant’s “beautiful family”. “The idea that he would attempt to live the rest of his life as an accused sex offender in France as a fugitive is ludicrous,” Taylor said.
Taylor sought to rebut the suggestion that Strauss-Kahn had shown a suspiciously hasty departure from his hotel room in Manhattan last Saturday before his arrest at JFK airport by producing Air France paperwork that showed his flight to Paris had been booked in advance. He said the defendant had surrendered both his passports and that his UN passport would be handed over by the weekend.
Of the charges that he faces, he said: “We expect that Mr Strauss-Kahn will be vindicated. But that’s for another day.”
The Manhattan district attorney, who is leading the prosecution of the former IMF boss, told the judge that he was facing serious charges with strong evidence amassing against him. “While the investigation is still in the early stages, the proof against him is substantial and continuing to grow every day,” said John McConnell, speaking for the prosecution.
He said that the maid, a widow from Guinea in west Africa aged 32 who has been named by some French papers, had told a consistent story to investigators and had immediately sounded the alarm to hotel staff and police. Forensic tests taken from the alleged victim have yet to be completed, but “evidence supporting the victim’s account has already been found”.
According to McConnell, Strauss-Kahn presented a “substantial flight risk. He is an international figure who truly has global influence and that gives him potential access to enormous economic resources.”
Under questioning by the judge, it was revealed that the defendant has a US bank account with a “low seven-figure sum” in it.
Given his resources and influence, the prosecution said that no bail could be set high enough to ensure that the defendant would return to face trial. “His own conduct in this case has shown a propensity to compulsive criminal conduct,” McConnell said.