Strauss-Kahn faces long process in New York courts

NEW YORK Tue May 17, 2011 9:15pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn may wait six months or more for a trial on charges he tried to rape a maid at a luxury hotel in New York, legal experts said.

While he could reach a plea agreement with prosecutors at any time, the next scheduled step is an appearance on Friday in Manhattan Criminal Court. A grand jury's formal charge, or indictment, could come at that hearing.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers are likely trying to negotiate with prosecutors over bail, which Judge Melissa Jackson denied at a court appearance on Monday, the legal analysts said.

One possible scenario is that prosecutors would agree to bail if they needed more time to get an indictment from the grand jury, which the defense would have to agree to.

After indictment, the case would then be transferred to trial court, called New York State Supreme Court. Strauss-Kahn would enter a plea there of guilty or not guilty. His attorney has said he will plead not guilty.

It would then be many months before the case comes to trial, as the two sides file preliminary motions, prepare their cases and, if not already agreed, continue to fight over bail.

Although Strauss-Kahn was denied bail on Monday, some criminal defense lawyers predicted his attorneys would ultimately prevail on that point.

"I don't see this as a no-bail case," said Gerald Lefcourt, a criminal defense lawyer who has represented clients such as the Black Panthers militant group and real estate mogul Harry Helmsley. Lefcourt is not involved in the Strauss-Kahn case.

A bail package could involve security guards, electronic monitoring or house arrest or all three, Lefcourt said.

As well as negotiating with prosecutors or making a new request for bail before the trial court, Strauss-Kahn's lawyers could pursue a third option -- a direct appeal of Jackson's ruling.

"In general, it's not reasonable to set no bail for somebody who is charged with a first-offense Class B felony who has a substantial amount of bail to post," said Richard Willstatter, president-elect of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "It's almost inevitable that bail will be set."

In New York state, Class B offenses are those punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

At any time during the process, Strauss-Kahn could cut a plea deal with prosecutors. Whether he does so could depend on the strength of the prosecutors' case.

(Reporting by Noeleen Walder and Joseph Ax; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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