Court gives Strauss-Kahn kiss of freedom
Dominique Strauss-Kahn hasn't had much good news lately but Thursday he got what a man in his position must crave more than anything in the world: bail from jail -- and a kiss from his wife.
Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn, the 62-year-old French politician accused of sexually assaulting a Manhattan hotel maid, scored a victory in persuading Judge Michael Obus to grant bail.
Prosecutors called the fallen VIP, who until Thursday headed the International Monetary Fund, a desperate man with a "propensity for impulsive criminal conduct." They said he should remain behind bars.
But for the first time since his shocking arrest and incarceration last Saturday, this was Strauss-Kahn's day.
Dressed in a grey suit and light blue, open-necked shirt, he looked better than during his haggard appearance at an initial court hearing.
And apart from obvious tiredness, there was nothing to indicate the nightmarish conditions he has endured as a high-security prisoner on suicide watch in the Rikers Island prison in the East River.
Entering a courtroom where journalists crammed into all 100 or so public seats, Strauss-Kahn turned to exchange looks with his wife, Anne Sinclair, and his daughter Camille, sitting in the front row, just a few steps away.
Strauss-Kahn -- who says he is innocent of attempted rape charges that could put him in prison for the rest of his life -- smiled. His wife, struggling to cope with the emotion, barely moved.
It was during a break, when Strauss-Kahn again stood up and turned to face the room that he smiled and blew a kiss from his hand. Then in a heartbeat, Sinclair raised her hand to her lips: she blew a kiss back.
This was a sole, sweet moment in an afternoon of tension and a long agonizing wait for Sinclair and Camille.
While lawyers argued and argued, and Strauss-Kahn sat in front of three large police officers, Sinclair and Camille had only each other to hold on to.
Sometimes it was Sinclair's hand that gripped Camille's and sometimes it was Camille, stroking softly with her thumb, who gave comfort to Sinclair. When Camille began to cry during the recess, Sinclair brushed the tears away.
Dressed simply and elegantly, the pair made the portrait of mother-and-daughter love. No one would have guessed that Camille was born to an earlier wife of Strauss-Kahn.
If the family has not had enough stress over the last few days, the bail hearing provided a little more. The media frenzy meant the wife and daughter had to enter a building besieged by camera crews.
Inside the courtroom there were not only journalists from all over the world, but a TV and a still camera allowed in by the judge to shoot pictures of Strauss-Kahn.
All afternoon, as arguments see-sawed over Strauss-Kahn's eligibility for bail, journalists in the room craned to see the accused and his wife and daughter. One French reporter went too far, trying to make contact with the women. He was immediately expelled by a court officer.
Sometimes lawyers mumbled, or police sirens outside the courthouse made it impossible to hear, only adding to the tension.
But then, finally, Judge Obus gave the news that Sinclair and her husband and his pale daughter, her face full of heartbreak, had been waiting to hear: if Strauss-Kahn can pay $1 million bail, a $5 million bond and submit to house arrest, he'll be reunited with his family Friday.
When Strauss-Kahn left -- away to spend his last night at Rikers Island -- he exchanged one more glance with Sinclair.
It was a quiet, closed sort of look this time, a look full of secrets that only a husband and wife can know.
© 2011 AFP