Strauss-Kahn to trade jail for New York apartment

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After a humiliating four-night stay in Rikers Island jail, Dominique Strauss-Kahn awaited release Friday to a New York apartment where he will be under constant video surveillance.

Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn, who is accused of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a 32-year-old Guinean chambermaid, convinced a judge on Thursday to release him on bail pending trial, under very strict provisions.

The 62-year-old veteran politician has resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund under the weight of a scandal that has also ended any hope he had of replacing Nicolas Sarkozy as French president in 2012.

The case has sent ripples around the globe, setting off a heated battle between Europe and emerging powers over who should fill his role at the world lender, which is bailing out failing economies left, right and center.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is tipped as a likely successor but developing nations such as Brazil, Mexico and China have urged a rethink of the conventional wisdom that an IMF chief has to come from Europe.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers were to sign the bail paperwork Friday, posting $1 million bail and an insurance bond of $5 million so he can move in to an apartment rented by his wife, American-born French journalist Anne Sinclair.

There was no official confirmation of the location, but journalists were staking out a plush apartment complex on East 65th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Services included a 24-hour doorman and concierge.

Under the terms of the bail deal, Strauss-Kahn must wear an ankle monitoring bracelet and be under 24-hour surveillance, meaning the flat would have to have video cameras installed.

Strauss-Kahn will also face strict visitation restrictions and have at least one armed guard as part of the elaborate deal, which came at an estimated personal cost to the defendant of more than $200,000 a month.

Camille, Strauss-Kahn's daughter by a previous marriage, lives nearby on the Upper West Side as she completes her graduate studies at Columbia University.

A grand jury has voted to indict the Socialist power baron on all seven charges related to the sexual assault and attempted rape of a maid on Saturday in his luxury suite at Manhattan's Sofitel hotel.

Strauss-Kahn has denied all charges and is expected to enter a plea of not guilty at his next court appearance on June 6. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if found guilty.

"Under American law, these are extremely serious charges," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters after Thursday's bail hearing.

Hordes of journalists besieged the courthouse and packed into the courtroom where Strauss-Kahn exchanged several quick looks with Sinclair.

Wearing a clean shirt and suit without a tie, Strauss-Kahn blew a kiss to his wife, who responded in kind. During attorneys' arguments, Sinclair sat holding hands with Camille, who was in tears.

Strauss-Kahn was escorted on Saturday afternoon off an Air France flight bound for Paris, minutes before take-off.

The prosecution contends he was seen rushing from his hotel room after the alleged attack, but the defense says he was simply late for lunch with someone who will testify to that effect, reportedly his daughter.

"The proof against him is substantial. It continues to grow every day," Assistant District Attorney John McConnell told Thursday's hearing.

US media say police have taken forensic evidence from the hotel, including bodily fluids taken from a section of rug where the alleged victim remembered spitting after she says Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex.

Jeff Shapiro, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn's accuser, has said that his client, who has not been identified except by some in the French media, was "alarmed" at the prospect of her alleged attacker leaving jail.

She alleges that the former IMF chief groped and mauled her in his room and forcibly tried to have oral sex with her. She testified on Wednesday and Thursday before the grand jury that later decided to send the case to trial.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer Benjamin Brafman said earlier this week the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter," suggesting the defense could seek to argue at trial that whatever happened was consensual.

© 2011 AFP

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