IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn bedded down at New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail on Monday night in a rapid and dramatic fall from grace after he was charged with trying to rape a hotel maid.
Separated from other inmates for his own safety, Strauss-Kahn was put in a bare 3.5m-by-4m cell and given basic bedding, a drinking cup, soap, shampoo and toothpaste.
Just three nights earlier, Strauss-Kahn had slept in a luxurious US$3,000-a-day hotel suite complete with conference room, living room, marble bathroom and a bedroom with a king-sized bed.
It was in that same suite in the Sofitel hotel near Times Square that Strauss-Kahn allegedly attacked a maid on Saturday afternoon.
His lawyers say he is innocent, but he could still lose his job as head of the IMF, which oversees the world economy, and his hopes of running in France’s presidential election in April are in tatters.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, was transferred to Rikers Island after a New York judge earlier denied his request for bail. Wary of possible attacks on the globe-trotting IMF chief, officials have put him in the smallest of the 10 jails in the vast Rikers complex and separated him from the other inmates.
“This is not about isolating the inmate from any human contact,” a spokesman for New York’s Department of Correction said. “This is about preventing the inmate from being victimized or harmed in some way as a result of his high profile.”
He said Strauss-Kahn would be kept from other inmates even when allowed out of his cell to stretch his legs, exercise or watch television.
The IMF chief looked drained and tense in his first court appearance earlier on Monday as prosecutors detailed his alleged attack against the maid.
“He sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her. When he was unsuccessful, he forced her to perform oral sex on him,” Assistant District Attorney John McConnell told the court.
Strauss-Kahn faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Judge Melissa Jackson was persuaded by prosecutors that Strauss-Kahn might try to flee to France, so she ordered him put behind bars and set a new hearing for Friday. Police had pulled Strauss-Kahn off an Air France jet on Saturday just minutes before it was scheduled to leave for Paris.
His lawyers are expected to appeal the judge’s bail decision and it could be a key issue in the case. Bail would give Strauss-Kahn much better access to his attorneys and allow him to live in New York with his wife, prominent French television personality Anne Sinclair, while awaiting trial.
Without it, he could face a long wait in a miserable jail cell, an ordeal that experts say could push him toward a plea bargain deal.
While at Rikers, Strauss-Kahn will likely be allowed three visitors a week and he will be given one hour a day for exercise.