Lessons From Dominique Strauss Kahn
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 05:39PM
Dr. Harriet Fraad

First published in Tikkun Daily, July 2011.

The case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a camera’s lens giving us a sharply focused picture of American justice.

We begin with the circumstances and the facts. I cite only corroborated information. Dominique Strauss Kahn was staying alone at the Sofitel, a luxury hotel in New York City. He was then the chairman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He resigned because of the scandal I describe. The IMF decides whether and how to give desperate nations the economic aid they want in order to survive. The IMF is known for the conditions of “austerity”, i.e., economic suffering, it imposes on its debtor nations. Strauss-Kahn was in a suite. The price for such a suite at the Sofitel is $3,000 per night. No austerity for him.

A Guinean cleaning lady emerged from Strauss-Kahn’s suite crying. She had bruises on her neck and breasts. She reported to other maids that Strauss-Kahn had grabbed her breasts, thrown her on the floor and forced oral sex on her. Strauss-Kahn denied it.

Bail and Bond

Strauss-Kahn is photographed in his rumpled expensive suit as he did the “perp walk” to a police car off to Rikers Island.

Within days his wife, Anne Sinclair, arrived from France with over a million dollars to assure the bondsman a return of the six million dollars needed for Strauss-Kahn’s bail bond and his release. You may notice that his case is now looking, shall we say, atypical.

Living conditions during incarceration

Strauss-Kahnwas on route to the airport approaching a waiting taxi when apprehended. He was en route to France. He was deemed a flight risk. Therefore, Strauss-Kahn was “incarcerated” after his release on a six million dollar bail bond. He was constrained by the usual rules for risky prisoners released on bail. He was relegated to his site of incarceration. His movements were monitored electronically. Armed guards and cameras watched him around the clock. He was allowed out for court, doctor’s visits and religious services. Prosecutors had to be notified at least six hours before he went anywhere, and he could not be out between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Under his terms of house arrest, he could receive up to four visitors at a time besides family.

That is where his terms of incarceration stop being typical. His security was managed by Stroz Friedberg. Strauss-Kahn’s security agreement cost him about $200,000, a sum he was able to pay.

The site of his incarceration was also rather unusual. He moved into a temporary space in an expensive high-rise apartment in Manhattan. The wealthy fellow residents did not want the disturbance of police and cameramen. Strauss-Kahn therefore moved into a, four-bedroom brick town house in Tribeca, an elegant Manhattan neighborhood. To ease his “imprisonment”, he had a home theater, gym, waterfall showers, a fireplace and renovations featuring the “finest materials and craftsmanship. This is the kind of imprisonment that America’s approximately 700 million homeless might envy. Strauss-Kahn is renting the red brick town house for $50,000 a month. Its cost on our suffering housing market, is fourteen million dollars.
Here it is important to contrast the terms of Strauss-Kahn’s incarceration with that of the millions of Americans rotting in jail while they await trial. They are imprisoned because they could not afford bail or bond money.

Within article 40 of our Constitution, Strauss-Kahn is entitled to “equality before the law”, just as well we all are. That is where the similarity between him and most of us ends.

Fortunately for Dominique Strauss-Kahn the vast money he had at his disposal allowed him and his defense to rely on Guidepost Solutions detective agency, in addition to his top-flight, expensive legal defense team.
According to the New York Times, Guidepost Solutions’ directors include a former head of the criminal division at the New York prosecutor’s office, a former head of security at IT giant IBM, and a former federal prosecutor who has worked closely with the US Secret Service. This service cost him between $700 and $1500 an hour for the various services that Guidepost Solutions provided.

The investigators were hired to uncover any elements that could discredit the alleged victim. They rummaged through the young woman’s entire history to find the slightest detail that could discredit her. The victim’s dealings with authorities – no matter how inconsequential – were put under the microscope. That scrutiny later paid off. Forensic crime scene reports were closely scrutinized. Experts were called upon to give their own conclusions on the evidence and the accuracy of the analyses. Guidepost has a special department with DNA experts.

Strauss-Kahn’s expensive team is now triumphant. They won! The hotel maid who had Strauss-Kahn’s DNA on her clothing, and bruises, is now vilified in the press (examples here and here). Strauss-Kahn is now free. He can shift his focus and money to fighting against a French accuser who also claims attempted rape. Although no one knows what happened, we can all imagine that if poor and, or corrupt people in Africa or anywhere else are offered money for condemning accusations, those accusations will be made. Strauss-Kahn’s staff did the job for which they were so well paid.


Dominique Strauss-Kahn certainly had a right to equality before the law as did the victim. We all enjoy the same rights and responsibilities. Do we all have the right to access equal resources to prove our innocence? The right to equality before the law seems to apply just as our universal law that no one is allowed to live under American bridges. Who will be tempted to violate that law and live outdoors under an American bridge? Guess?

We will never know what happened between Strauss-Kahn and the Guinean maid cleaning his Sofitel suite. What we will know is how very relevant money can be to our Constitutional right to “equality before the law.” We can also learn another important lesson: when money talks, the voices of justice and equality are reduced to a whisper.

Article originally appeared on harrietfraad (http://www.harrietfraad.com/).
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