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Ex-IMF chief released from jail on bail

Image: Dominique Strauss-Kahn Appears In Court For Bail Hearing In Sexual Assault Case
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears in State Supreme Court for a bail hearing Thursday in New York City.Pool / Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of a sex attack on a New York City hotel maid, was freed from jail Friday pending trial after posting $1 million bail.

Strauss-Kahn was released from the city's notorious Rikers Island jail Friday afternoon into the custody of a New York security company, Stroz Friedberg, that will be monitoring his house, corrections officials said.

State Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Obus ordered the release after Strauss-Kahn's lawyers put up $1 million cash bail and a $5 million insurance bond.

The initial proposal had been for Strauss-Kahn to stay at an Upper East Side building where his wife had rented an apartment. But that plan fell through when neighbors objected to the media frenzy, defense lawyers said.

Even though the address was never officially released, police and reporters soon converged on the building, the Bristol Plaza.

"Last night there was an effort by the media to invade the building," Strauss-Kahn attorney William Taylor said. "That is why the tenants in the building will not accept his living there."

Instead, Strauss-Kahn will be temporarily housed in a building in lower Manhattan within the Police Department's "Ring of Steel" — a network of private and police cameras near where the World Trade Center stood.

While he is there, his family and lawyers will look for a more permanent place for him to await trial. At least one armed guard will be watching him at all times, and he will have to wear an ankle bracelet. His apartment's exterior doors will be outfitted with alarms and video cameras, on orders from the judge who granted bail.

"This is intended to be temporary, meaning a few days, and in the meantime, efforts would be made to arrange for another suitable residence," Obus said.

Strauss-Kahn cannot leave his temporary housing at all. Once he is settled somewhere more permanent, he will be allowed to leave only for court dates, meetings with his lawyers, doctor's appointments and weekly religious services, and he will have to give prosecutors at last six hours' notice. No trial date has been set.

Obus had said on Thursday he would free Strauss-Kahn on bail under strict conditions.

The 62-year-old French economist and diplomat, considered a leading French presidential contender before his arrest, had spent the past four nights at the Rikers Island jail under suicide watch. He has denied charges of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching.

On Thursday, Taylor called the bail decision "a great relief for the family" and said Strauss-Kahn's mindset was "much better now than before we started."

Taylor had argued in court "that the prospect of Mr. Strauss-Kahn teleprompting himself to France and living there as an accused sex offender, fugitive, is ludicrous on its face."

"He is an honorable man," Taylor told the judge. "He will appear in this court and anywhere else the court directs. He has only one interest at this time and that is to clear his name."

Strauss-Kahn is accused of attacking a 32-year-old housekeeper Saturday in his penthouse suite at the Sofitel, a posh midtown Manhattan hotel. The West African immigrant told police he chased her down a hallway in the suite, forced her to perform oral sex and tried to remove her stockings.

"The proof against him is substantial. It is continuing to grow every day as the investigation continues," prosecutor John "Artie" McConnell told the judge Thursday. The maid had told a "compelling and unwavering story," McConnell added.

Less than a day earlier, Strauss-Kahn resigned as managing director of the IMF, the powerful organization that makes emergency loans to countries in financial crisis.

In his resignation letter, he denied the allegations against him but said he would quit in order to "protect this institution which I have served with honor and devotion" and to "devote all my strength, all my time and all my energy to proving my innocence."

A different judge had ordered Strauss-Kahn held without bail Monday; his lawyers subsequently added home confinement to their bail proposal.

Meanwhile, a French woman considering filing a complaint against Strauss-Kahn over an alleged 2002 sexual assault does not want to testify in the attempted rape case against him, her lawyer said.

In France, lawyer David Koubbi told Reuters on Friday that his client, writer Tristane Banon, would refuse to talk to U.S. investigators.

"The presumption of innocence does not exist in the United States. My client does not want her strategy included in that framework," Koubbi said.

He said he and Banon will decide later about filing a complaint against Strauss-Kahn because they "don't want to be manipulated by the U.S. justice system."

Under French law, sexual assault charges must be filed within three years but attempted rape charges can be brought up to 10 years after the alleged attack.

Race is on at IMF Strauss-Kahn will receive a one-off severance payment of $250,000, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.

"Former Managing Director Strauss-Kahn's annual pension and related entitlements have been grossly overestimated in media reports this week, and appear based erroneously on a one-off separation payment of $250,000," the IMF said in a statement. "The annual payments would be far, far less than that amount in subsequent years."

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Friday that discussions were under way with IMF shareholders from emerging markets as well as advanced countries about a new IMF chief.

"We are prepared to support a candidate with the requisite, deep experience and leadership qualities, and who can command broad support among the Fund's membership,'' Geithner said in a statement.

Geithner's remarks appeared to be intended to signal that the United States was not automatically backing a European successor to Strauss-Kahn. The IMF has always been run by a European.

European officials, including Ge rmany's chancellor, the European Commission and France's finance minister, have argued that his replacement should be a European.

The French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, emerged Friday as Europe's likely candidate to lead the Fund as it came under under pressure to find a successor fast to lead a body that provides billions of dollars of loans to stabilize the world economy

Lagarde, 55, has a clean-cut image and has been praised for her acumen in helping steer Europe through the global financial crisis and its more recent debt woes. She speaks impeccable English and spent much of her career in the United States as a lawyer. One of the longest-serving ministers under French President Nicolas Sarkozy she eased French labor laws and helped France weather its worst recession since World War II better than many other developed countries.

The IMF said Friday countries can submit names of candidates starting Monday, through June 10. The board will compile a shortlist and hopes to select Imf says a new managing director by June 30.