INSIGHT-Strauss-Kahn bail appeal seen key to legal strategy

Mon May 16, 2011 6:29pm EDT

* Strauss-Kahn's lawyers seen proposing new bail package

* Some experts say should get bail on appeal

* If he loses bail appeal, a plea deal seen more likely

* If he gets out of jail case could drag on a long time

By Andrew Longstreth

NEW YORK, May 16 (Reuters) - IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's legal strategy could depend on whether his lawyers can get him out of jail.

Strauss-Kahn, who has been charged with sexually assaulting a maid at a hotel in Manhattan, has been in police custody since late Saturday afternoon, when authorities removed him from an Air France flight that was moments from departing New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

He lost a bid to stay out of jail after prosecutors on Monday persuaded Judge Melissa Jackson of Manhattan Criminal Court that he was a flight risk.

Defense attorneys not involved in the case say they expect Strauss-Kahn's lawyers to propose a new bail package, which if granted could help relieve leverage that government prosecutors now have over him in his new accommodations, the notorious Rikers Island jail in New York.

The proposal could be made at the time of any indictment or through a separate appellate court case.

For a man used to spending time in $3,000-a-night hotel suites, weeks or months in a grim prison cell awaiting trial would motivate him to seek a plea deal, the legal experts said. He is facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

If Strauss-Kahn is granted bail, some defense lawyers expect the case to drag on for months and maybe years.

Ryan Blanch, an attorney with The Blanch Law Firm, said there would be little incentive for either the government or Strauss-Kahn to make a deal.

"If there's going to be any favorable pleas, it's going to be after the media attention dies down," he said. "A year from now people won't care as much."

The experts are split on whether he has a strong chance of getting bail on appeal.

"I would not be shocked if the appellate court ruled that setting no bail in this case was excessive and unreasonable," said William Aronwald, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney who is now a lawyer at Aronwald & Pykett.

Aronwald said that in Strauss-Kahn's favor in such an argument for bail is his lack of a criminal record and the fact that he is widely recognized, which would make it difficult for him to flee.

But John Moscow, a partner at Baker Hostetler, said that Strauss-Kahn's lawyers will have to be creative in fashioning a bail package that a court will accept. One possibility is to seek assurances from the French government that he would be returned to the U.S. for a trial. "We'll see whether or not he has friends," said Moscow.

Whether he gets out soon or not, Strauss-Kahn's lawyers will seek to quickly develop an aggressive defense, which could help them either win bail and gain leverage in plea negotiations, or eventually win at trial.

Roland Riopelle, a partner at Sercarz & Riopelle, said that it was likely that Strauss-Kahn's lawyers had hired investigators to dig up information on the alleged victim of the assault.

"It would be inconceivable to me they're not investigating that person to see if there are any weaknesses in her case," said Riopelle.

At the bail hearing, Benjamin Brafman, one of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, said Strauss-Kahn did not flee the hotel as the prosecution alleges and that the person he was having lunch with on Saturday, the day of the incident, will testify on his behalf.

(Reporting by Andrew Longstreth)

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