IMF chief denied bail because of ... Roman Polanski

The head of the IMF will sit in a cell at Riker’s Island until at least Friday, thanks to … Roman Polanski.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s defense team argued forcefully for his release on bail, but prosecutors in New York warned that a bail release would mean certain flight from prosecution.  Like Polanski, the US would be unable to force France to extradite Strauss-Kahn if he managed to slip out of the country while out on bail:

Strauss-Kahn spent the night at the infamous Rikers Island, a 400-acre penal complex, after being denied bail Monday. Prosecutors had warned the wealthy banker might flee to France and put himself beyond the reach of U.S. law like the filmmaker Roman Polanski. …

Prosecutors said they couldn’t force Strauss-Kahn’s return from France if he went there.

“He would be living openly and notoriously in France, just like Roman Polanski,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Daniel Alonso, referring to the film director long sought by California authorities for sentencing in a 1977 child sex case.

Defense lawyers suggested bail be set at $1 million and promised that the IMF managing director would remain in New York City. His lawyers said Strauss-Kahn wasn’t trying to elude police Saturday: The IMF head rushed out of the hotel at about 12:30 p.m. to get to a lunch date with a family member, then caught a flight for which he had long had a ticket, they said.

For that matter, they could also point to the case of Ira Einhorn, who lived openly in France for years despite his conviction for murder in Pennsylvania.  Only after prosecutors agreed to a new trial (Einhorn had been convicted in absentia after jumping bail) and to abandon the death penalty did France finally extradite Einhorn.  And he was a US citizen without any other passport, unlike Polanski and Strauss-Kahn.

If France honored normal extradition protocols, Strauss-Kahn would probably be out on bail today.  He can thank Polanski and the French government for keeping him in his cell.

Meanwhile, the defense has shifted its claims a bit since the weekend.  Earlier, they spoke of finding an alibi because Strauss-Kahn was supposedly not in the hotel but at a restaurant at the time of the attack.  Now, they’re arguing that the evidence doesn’t support a forcible encounter:

Brafman said defense lawyers believe the forensic evidence “will not be consistent with a forcible encounter.” Defense lawyers wouldn’t elaborate, but Brafman said “there are significant issues that were already found” that make it “quite likely that he will be ultimately be exonerated.”

Sounds like a bit of a walkback, and since the maid was treated for minor injuries after the “encounter,” it doesn’t promise to be a terribly convincing one, although they only need to raise reasonable doubt.  But if they’re starting to concede that an “encounter” took place, it seems as though they’re preparing for a DNA match to be made from the forensic evidence.

In Europe, some have seen enough and want a resignation tout suite:

Austria’s finance minister suggested Tuesday that Strauss-Kahn consider stepping down to avoid damaging the IMF, which provides emergency loans to countries in severe distress and tries to maintain global financial stability.

“Considering the situation, that bail was denied, he has to figure out for himself that he is hurting the institution,” Maria Fekter said as she arrived at a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels.

Elena Salgado, Fekter’s Spanish counterpart, said Strauss-Kahn had to decide for himself whether he wanted to step down, considering the “extraordinarily serious” nature of the charges.

“If I had to show my solidarity and support for someone it would be toward the woman who has been assaulted, if that is really the case that she has been,” she said.

Too bad France doesn’t feel that way about Polanski’s victim, huh?