Anyone who’s been following the news at all lately has heard that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, until this week head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has been arrested on a variety of rape-related charges in New York City. (Indeed, he resigned as head of the IMF because of his arrest.) News broke on Thursday night that Mr. Strauss-Kahn—often referred to as DSK in the media—will be released on $1 million bail and $5 million insurance bond on Friday, to be placed under house arrest at an apartment that his wife has just rented in Manhattan, where he will wear an ankle bracelet and have armed guards monitoring either the apartment or the building (it is unclear which, from news reports).
DSK is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. (This is better than what I understand is the situation in DSK’s native France, where indictment comes, I am told, with the presumption of guilt until proven innocent.) However, the presumption of innocence applies only to the courts of law.
In the court of public opinion, he’s guilty as hell.
(Heck, I sure think he’s guilty as hell.)
If this is at all predictive of how his court case could go, DSK is facing a rough situation:
- He faces a possible sentence of 25 years or more. With DSK having just turned 62 last month, a 25-year sentence could be a life sentence. Even with time off for good behavior, DSK would not be getting some luxury suite in a white-collar prison; no, he’ll be serving hard time with other rapists. If he survives the experience, he’ll be a wreck of a man, and he knows this.
- Word on the street is, the DA's office has solid evidence.
- The New York City Police Department division that deals with victims of sexual crimes is perhaps the most experienced such division in the United States. They’ll not let him get off this charge easily.
Given all this, and given the assets that he controls, my guess is that DSK is going to look his chances in the face—and run, run, run all the way home.
In this blog post, I explain how he could do it.
It is obvious that he has a strong incentive to run. But does he have the means? The Associated Press through Forbes.com has reported that “he and his wife, an heiress to a renowned art dealer, have extensive personal wealth.” Just how extensive?
The same article reported that, as head of the IMF for the last four years or so, DSK's tax-free salary and cost of living allowance ran to just under $500K annually. And that’s just his day job income. To have lunch with his daughter a week ago, he flew to NYC and took one night in a $3K/night hotel room. (That’s over ½% of his day job income, just on the hotel room.) He and his wife have a six-room apartment in a tony neighborhood in Paris, another 1,800+ square foot apartment in Paris, a home in Marrakech, and a house in Washington (reported to be worth $4 million). Methinks they’re not just living off his salary.
So let’s say he has a couple of million to throw around on his escape. How might he do it? Actually, it would be ridiculously simple.
Step 1: Apartment to U.S. Airport
It is worth pointing out that DSK himself is paying for the security guards at his apartment. It would not surprise me in the slightest if, say, personnel beholden to DSK were to be on shift one day—the day that a helicopter diverts from its flight plan and lowers a rope ladder to the roof of the building in which DSK is sequestered.
A fast chopper could make it from midtown Manhattan to, say, Connecticut’s Danbury airport in about 15 to 20 minutes. It might take that long, or longer, for the NYPD to respond to the clipping of DSK’s ankle bracelet, and then discover that this bird truly has flown.
Danbury would be a great choice. It is outside NYPD and NYS trooper jurisdiction, and precious minutes would be lost in notifying Connecticut or federal authorities that a fugitive is in Connecticut jurisdiction. In addition, it is just not that busy as area airports go. (I know--I have flown out of Danbury.) Just the place for a quick getaway.
Step 2: U.S. Airport to Wherever
A private jet, ready on the tarmac at Danbury airport, could be airborne in minutes—like I said, not much traffic at Danbury—and, once airborne, could be outside of U.S. airspace within about two minutes. Mission accomplished!
So where would he go? Possibly not France, because DSK has waived extradition from France; however, given that the French have been, how shall I say, loose in their interpretations of their obligations to extradite accused sexual criminals to the United states (witness Roman Polanski), France itself might be a reasonable bet. Otherwise, Switzerland (also favorable to the accused in the Polanski case), or somewhere without even the pretense of extradition, like Brazil.
So why am I going through all this? To give the accused pointers on his getaway? I assure you, my friends, that these are not new thoughts to a multi-millionaire facing what is essentially a life sentence. No, I have a different point to make. (Although the NYPD are welcome to consider what I have said here . . .)
The judge who offered DSK bail, under any terms whatsoever, has made a terrible mistake. We should not offer what amounts to terms for escape to people with extraordinary means; Polanski was given bail despite being an escape risk, and fled. The prosecutors in DSK’s instance made the case that he was an escape risk, and the arraignment judge very reasonably agreed, denying the defendant bail. However, an appeals judge decided otherwise, and has given DSK a ticket out.
The ability of a defendant to skip town should not be dependent on the size of his wallet. It’s just that simple.
Basic common sense is most certainly On The Mark.
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[The photo of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is his official portrait as the 10th director of the IMF. It was taken in 2008; the photographer is uncredited; its ultimate source is the IMF, where the byline states that it is in the public domain. It was obtained from Wikipedia.]
(Copyright 2011 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)