There is certainly an issue as to whether or not Dominique Strauss-Kahn posed a sufficient flight risk to be denied bail. After all, he is a citizen of France (a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.), and he was arrested on an airplane about to take off for Paris.
On the other hand, his crime, while serious, is not murder, and he had to post one million in cash and five million in collateral to remain free pending trial. Cleary, no matter what decision the court made on the issue of bail, it was bound to cause controversy. Since his arrest, the tabloids have bombarded us with headlines like, “LePerv’s Palace, Outrage as Dom Gets Bail” and “Pepe Le Pew! East Side High Rises Slam Door on Skunk.”
Part of what is fueling the controversy is that a clean decision was not made. There appears to have been a negotiation with the court, the prosecutor and the defense team in which, in addition to bail, Strauss-Kahn and has family agreed to pay a private security firm to place him under house arrest and electronic monitoring. So was he granted bail or wasn’t he? Was he allowed to substitute arrest in more comfortable surroundings (at his expense) for being housed at Rikers Island with the regular folks who have been denied bail? According to the NY Post Strauss-Kahn has rented a Tribeca townhouse for $50,000 per month.
What appears to have been an effort to cover both sides of the controversy may have actually exacerbated it. It is the spectacle of justice negotiated that is so questionable. Who can afford such a negotiation? And who is allowed to engage in it even if they could afford it? We elect and pay our judges to make decisions and take the heat, not to avoid hard choices by compromising the values that underlie our legal system, in particular, “equality before the law.”