Can Strauss-Kahn buy his way to freedom?
The ex-IMF chief is sparing no expense to stay out of jail. David Usborne reports
Tuesday 31 May 2011
He has bought himself freedom on bail and secured a luxury townhouse in Manhattan where he must drum his fingers until trial. But Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief accused of sexual assault, is busy investing in something more vital: the crack defence team he hopes will keep him out of prison for good.
Money is being spent quickly to win the services not only of braggadocio-filled lawyers like Benjamin Brafman, whose past clients have included P Diddy and Michael Jackson, but also figures more used to operating in the shadows. Former CIA spies may be on board, as well as a retired US diplomat, a secretive security and investigative firm in New York and some well connected PR pals from Paris.
The defendant, known around the world now by his initials, DSK, has denied the charges against him of a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching, all arising from an encounter with a hotel maid in Manhattan on 14 May. Even so, with the trial still months away, he may want to test the premise that justice is blind to money and social stature.
His lawyers told a judge at his arraignment that he was worth "roughly $2m". But they added that Ann Sinclair, his wife and the granddaughter of the art collector Paul Rosenberg, had "substantially greater assets". It is Ms Sinclair, who rushed to New York when her husband was arrested, who found the townhouse (monthly rental $50,000) and has led the hiring spree so preparations for the trial can begin.
Not that the prosecutors' bench at trial won't have its own formidable talent. Cyrus Vance, the new District Attorney of Manhattan, will give this case, which will be devoured by the media, everything he has to ensure a conviction. The lead so far for the DA's office has been John McConnell. Mr Vance has recently assigned another three of his best legal brains to help him.
Joan Illuzzi-Orbon will join the team. Her recent roster of high-profile cases has included the prosecution of the rapper Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty to a gun charge in 2009. Also assigned to the case is assistant DA Ann Prunty, who has been involved in the case of Nicholas Brooks, the son of the late songwriter Joseph Brooks, who is accused of killing a fashion designer at the Soho House club in Manhattan.
For DSK, it isn't just legal help he needs, however. There is the media to manipulate on both sides of the Atlantic. And there is opposition research to be completed. That will include arming his defence team with any information about his accuser, the maid from the Sofitel, which might undermine her credibility.
Taken on to help with both media-massaging and general strategising is, according to Reuters, a Washington-based consultancy called TD International, which played a key role in getting DSK chosen for the IMF job four years ago. A profile posted on LinkedIn says it provides "critical business intelligence; facilitation counselling; and investigative and security services". Among the principals at TD International is William Green, a former US diplomat who, according to its website, "participated in the management of the Anglo-American and US-Canadian intelligence relationships". He is helped by a staff of 18 that reportedly includes former CIA operatives.
Also hired, Reuters says, is Guidepost Solutions, a "global investigations and security company" based in New York. Its vice-president is Joseph Rosetti, a former senior officer at the risk consultancy Kroll Associates. Guidepost could possibly take the lead in researching the background of DSK's accuser, possibly even with a team in West Africa from where she emigrated seven years ago, although sources have sought to downplay that option.
Less formal are the roles that may be played by four friends of DSK who work or once worked for the Paris-based PR firm Euro-RSCG. Known in the French press as his "four musketeers", they include Anne Hommel, who helped with the first statement of support for her husband put out by Ms Sinclair. Ms Hommel reportedly also accompanied Ms Sinclair when she flew to New York after the arrest.
Benjamin Brafman The doyen of New York criminal defence lawyers, Ben Brafman's list of clients includes Sean "P Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z and Michael Jackson. DSK can expect to pay Brafman several million dollars.
William Green The former CIA agent runs TD International, a New York-based PR and strategy firm which has previous links to DSK after pushing his initial candidature for the IMF job back in 2007. It is unclear if Green, or his firm, has been formally hired, but the defence has been vocal about tracking down the alleged victim's family in West Africa
Bart Schwartz TD is not the only investigative firm in Team DSK. While William Green is likely to concentrate on the PR battle, Guidepost Solutions is described as an "expert investigative and security consulting services and advice" firm. It is led, handily for DSK, by Bart Schwartz, the former chief of the criminal division of the US Attorney's Office in Manhattan.
The four musketeers DSK has worked with four executives from one of France's biggest PR firms, Euro RSCG. Stephane Fouks, Gilles Finchelstein, Anne Hommel andRamzi Khiroun are known as the four musketeers
Anne Sinclair DSK's wife may be his greatest asset, especially as she is largely financing his cripplingly expensive defence.
Cyrus Vance Jr The son of Cyrus Vance, a US Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter, the former litigator was appointed last year as Manhattan's district attorney. He has so far had an unremarkable 17-month run, and all eyes will be on his performance in his highest prosecution yet.
Artie McConnell McConnell has been named as the lead prosecutor against Strauss-Kahn. He was also involved in the prosecution of "Manhattan Madam" Kristin Davis, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to running a high-end prostitution ring in New York, California and Pennsylvania.
Joan Illuzzi-Orbon The recently appointed chief of the new Hate Crimes Unit, Illuzzi-Orbon has joined the prosecution team against Strauss-Kahn. One of her most recent high-profile cases was the prosecution of rapper Lil Wayne, who pleaded guilty to a gun charge in 2009.
Ann Prunty Assistant district attorney Prunty has been involved in the case of Nicholas Brooks, the son of late songwriter Joseph Brooks, who is accused of killing a fashion designer last year in the Soho House club in Manhattan.
Jeffrey Shapiro Although he won't be part of the prosecution team, personal injury lawyer Shapiro has been representing the alleged victim pro bono, and has spoken on her behalf to the media.
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