New York: Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from jail on Friday to house arrest in a landmark apartment building near ground zero after the luxury apartment where he had arranged to stay fell through because the neighbours objected to the media frenzy.
Prosecutors said he would stay temporarily in lower Manhattan while his family and lawyers look for more permanent housing for him to await trial on charges he tried to rape a hotel maid.
Strauss-Kahn was moved from a Rikers Island cell into a 21-storey granite skyscraper called the Empire Building, a person familiar with his housing arrangements said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person wasn`t authorised to speak publicly.
The original plan was for Strauss-Kahn to move into a luxury residential hotel under armed guard on Manhattan`s well-to-do Upper East Side. Even though the address was never officially released, police and media converged on the building, the Bristol Plaza.
"Last night there was an effort by the media to invade the building," Strauss-Kahn attorney William Taylor said. "That is why the tenants in the building will not accept his living there." While Strauss-Kahn`s family had a lease and could have stayed, he decided to leave "out of respect for the residents”.
Late in the day, after the snag over where the banker would serve his house arrest had been resolved, Strauss-Kahn was released from the city`s Rikers Island jail on USD 1 million cash bail. The 62-year-old former managing director of the powerful International Monetary Fund had been behind bars since last Saturday.
During his time at the Empire Building, at least one armed guard will be watching him at all times, and he will have to wear an ankle bracelet. His apartment`s exterior doors will be outfitted with alarms and video cameras, on orders from the judge who granted bail.
"This is intended to be temporary, meaning a few days, and in the meantime, efforts would be made to arrange for another suitable residence," state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said.
The apartment building on Broadway in Manhattan`s Financial District, several blocks from the World Trade Centre site, rents two-bedroom apartments starting at USD 4,250 a month, with 9-foot ceilings, bay windows and walk-in closets.
Prosecutors had argued against Strauss-Kahn`s release, warning he might use his wealth and international connections to flee to France and thwart efforts to extradite him, like the filmmaker Roman Polanski.
Strauss-Kahn cannot leave his temporary housing at all. Once he is settled somewhere permanent, he will be allowed to leave only for court dates, meetings with his lawyers, doctor`s appointments and weekly religious services, and he will have to give prosecutors at last six hours` notice. No trial date has been set.
He is accused of attacking a 32-year-old housekeeper in his USD 3,000-a-night hotel suite. The West African immigrant told police he emerged naked from the bathroom, chased her down and forced her to perform oral sex. He has denied the allegations.
On the Upper East Side, tenants of Bristol Plaza — featuring furnished apartments with Italian marble bathrooms, flat-screen televisions, king-size beds with goose down pillows — were upset at the prospect of a media feeding frenzy outside their door. The wealthy neighbourhood attracts a crush of dignitaries from the United Nations, and Bernard Madoff lived close by.
"I didn`t want him here," said Dolores Gonzalez, who was afraid the spectacle would tarnish the building`s dignified reputation.
Her neighbour Charles Katz agreed: "It`s going to be very crowded, noisy, attracting the press and other people."