French appeal for Strauss-Kahn: Ironic Einhorn echo
Published : Jun 1, 2011 - 18:50
Updated : Jun 1, 2011 - 18:50
Philadelphians know better than anyone why Dominique Strauss-Kahn should remain anchored to New York City.

Two words: Ira Einhorn.

Einhorn, the slovenly, self-appointed hippie guru of 1960s and ‘70s counterculture with a history of abusing women, was convicted in 2002 of murdering his former girlfriend Holly Maddux, a Texas-born cheerleading beauty.

The road to that elusive conviction, however, took 25 arduous years ― and finally happened with little help from Strauss-Kahn’s enlightened countrymen.

Maddux was first enthralled by Einhorn, a womanizer despite his refusal to bathe and his goofy, toothy smile, in 1972. By 1977, she had had enough, moved to New York, and met a man named Saul Lapidus. Maddux returned to Einhorn’s University City apartment only to collect her belongings and say goodbye to him for good. There, Einhorn bludgeoned her to death with a blunt object. Rather than dispose of the body, Einhorn let it decompose in a trunk that he kept in the closet. For a year and a half, he acted unaware of her whereabouts, telling the Maddux family that she’d left him for another man. If only.

Maddux’s parents were suspicious. She had never gone more than two weeks without calling and definitely wouldn’t have skipped a check-in on her mother’s birthday, which passed soon after her disappearance. Fred and Elizabeth Maddux contacted the Philadelphia police, who questioned Einhorn but came away empty-handed. The couple then hired two former FBI agents to further investigate.

“There were two medical students downstairs who knew that there was something decaying upstairs,” former judge and District Attorney Lynne Abraham recalled during an interview last week. “And when they confronted Einhorn about ‘What’s that smell?’ he said some raccoons or some squirrels had gotten stuck in the wall and they probably died there. And that accounted for not only the smell but the dripping that came down through the ceiling and the wall into their apartment.”

By 1979, the police had enough evidence to get then-Judge Abraham to sign a search-and-seizure warrant for the apartment. When police opened the trunk, Einhorn notably said: “You found what you found.”

At the time of trial in 1981, Pennsylvania had no death penalty. As a result, Einhorn was offered bail, which he paid before slipping out of Philadelphia and the United States altogether. He traveled to Europe, passed through Ireland, England and Wales, and eventually found his way to France. After nearly two decades on the lam, he was located in Champagne-Mouton ― married to a wealthy Swedish beauty ― and arrested in 1997. The French government refused to extradite him, while courts promptly granted him bail.

“The French government thought him an international sensation, a cause celebre,” Abraham told me. “They rallied to his defense, took a position opposite to the United States ― that our laws were cruel, that this man was being persecuted because he was a famous personage.”

Abraham, who by then had been elected D.A., spent the next few years sending lawyers to argue for Einhorn’s extradition in France. She personally petitioned the highest levels of government, including President Bill Clinton and Felix Rohatyn, then the U.S. ambassador to France.

But Einhorn’s conviction in absentia in Philadelphia in 1993 didn’t sit well with France’s aristocratic sensibilities. Einhorn’s lawyer, meanwhile, incorrectly insisted that Einhorn would be put to death if sent back to the United States.

“What finally broke it for us is that I had to go to the legislature of Pennsylvania and get a law passed that would guarantee that Ira Einhorn would not be executed if he were brought to Pennsylvania,” Abraham said. “And even though I had explained to the French authorities that he couldn’t be executed because of the law in effect as of the time the murder took place, they absolutely wouldn’t believe me.

”The contortions that we had to go through all the way through the courts of France, up to and including the highest appeals court, the Cour d’appel in Paris, was unbelievable.“

By 2002, Einhorn had finally been returned to the United States and convicted again. He is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.

All of which makes the pleas of Strauss-Kahn’s French defenders ― whose objections range from the cruelty of his perp walk to the honorability of his character ― particularly comical.

For the better part of two decades, Ira Einhorn, wanted for murder and convicted in absentia, found a haven in France. For nearly five years after that, his French protectors refused to turn him over to Philadelphia-based investigators. Now those same delicate sensibilities prescribe leniency and bail for a potential French presidential candidate embroiled in an alleged sexual tryst gone horribly wrong?

As they say in South Philly: Fuggetaboudit!

By Michael Smerconish

Michael Smerconish writes a weekly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may contact him via www.smerconish.com. ― Ed.

(The Philadelphia Inquirer)

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)