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Lawyers for ex-IMF head complain of leaks to media

Updated: 2011-05-27 15:18
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NEW YORK - Lawyers for former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn charged Thursday that leaks to the media could prevent their client from getting a fair trial in his attempted rape case, and they're blaming the New York Police Department.

And lawyers William W. Taylor and Benjamin Brafman said they themselves could release information that "would seriously undermine the quality of this prosecution and also gravely undermine the credibility of the complainant in this case," though they didn't elaborate.

Their complaint came in a letter to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whose office responded with a letter of its own criticizing the defense lawyers for going public with their claim to have information that could damage prosecutors' case.

"We are aware of no such information," wrote Manhattan assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, part of a team of prosecutors working on the case.

The scrap came as Strauss-Kahn spent his first full day in the latest locale for his high-priced house arrest, a $50,000-a-month town house in trendy TriBeCa.

The 62-year-old economist is accused of sexually attacking a hotel housekeeper May 14. He says he's innocent.

The case has unleashed a swarm of sometimes minute-to-minute reporting by a fiercely competitive, international media presence.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers lambasted articles attributed to anonymous sources -- in the police department, they say -- as containing "a wide array of prejudicial information about Mr. Strauss-Kahn" and information his lawyers haven't yet gotten themselves. They noted articles in various outlets this week saying that Strauss-Kahn's DNA was found on the 32-year-old maid's clothing.

Various "information has now been recklessly injected into the public arena with the potential of permanently prejudicing potential jurors who are being exposed to these materials on a daily basis," they wrote, suggesting they might seek court action if the leaks don't stop.

The Police Department declined to comment.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers also asked Vance to give them scientific and police reports in the case, including the accuser's statements to police.

Illuzzi-Orbon rebuffed that as "premature" and said prosecutors share the concern about leaks, but added they were "troubled that you chose to inject into the public record your claim that you possess information that might negatively impact the case."

The housekeeper now has her own team of lawyers; one declined to comment Thursday.

Strauss-Kahn was moved Wednesday night from the high-rise near Wall Street where he began serving his house arrest to a red-brick town house a few blocks away.

The four-bedroom house rents for $50,000 a month and is listed for sale at $13,995,000. It boasts a home theater and gym, but its most attractive feature may be that it is one of Manhattan's relatively few single-family houses, so Strauss-Kahn doesn't share it with neighbors.

Strauss-Kahn is a prisoner there, his every movement monitored electronically, armed guards and cameras watching him around the clock in an arrangement expected to cost him about $200,000 a month; he also has posted a total of $6 million in bond and cash bail. He will be allowed out for court, doctor's visits and religious services.

At the nearby Synagogue of the Arts, Rabbi Jonathan Glass said Strauss-Kahn would be welcome.

"He is entitled to succor," Glass said. "As the only synagogue in the neighborhood, we are prepared to provide that service for him."

The town house is on a cobblestone-paved side street where some warehouses have been converted to pricy apartments. Dozens of good restaurants are close enough to deliver; Strauss-Kahn and his wife, Anne Sinclair, reportedly ordered steak from nearby Landmarc on Wednesday.

Most people on the block appeared unfazed by their new neighbor on Thursday.

"They're not in my way right now, and I hope they don't get in my way," said Ray Foster, a warehouse manager across the street. He said the block is used to commotion, since movies and TV shows frequently shoot there.

Strauss-Kahn's new landlord is no stranger to high-profile tenants.

Owner Michael Marvisi, an owner of commercial properties along Manhattan's grubby Canal Street shopping corridor, also got into a legal fight with French fashion conglomerate Louis Vuitton Malletier, luxury watch maker Rolex, Italian handbag maker Fendi and other companies a few years ago for allegedly allowing black-market peddlers of counterfeit merchandise to set up shop in his buildings. He ultimately signed a series of settlements agreeing to evict knock-off vendors and take other measures to deter counterfeiters.