His reputation maligned by allegations that he lifted actor Kevin Costner's laptop and digital camera, Pascal Bensimon still has a business to run in downtown Aspen.And if he wants his business to stay steady, some PR pundits offer this piece of advice to the French hairstylist: Pipe down and lay low."What Pascal needs more than a PR person is a good lawyer," says Alan Caruba, a public relations specialist based in South Orange, N.J. "Issue no news releases and basically wait after the final decision is made regarding the charge. Then he could put forward a news release defending his point of view. At that point after the news release, he just has to disappear from the public arena for a good six months to a year."If Caruba's advice is indeed the best course for the coiffeur to take, then Bensimon's statements following his arrest may have gone over like the Hindenburg. Bensimon told the Aspen Daily News after he surrendered to authorities last December that he had no culpability for the theft of Costner's high-tech gadgetry. Authorities claim he swiped the camera and Apple PowerBook from Costner's wedding at his Aspen home on Sept. 25, 2004. Bensimon was on hand to provide hairstyling for wedding guests. "Some people put some drugs in my glass," he was quoted as telling the paper. "I was not conscious for the day that I was there I and I don't understand what's coming up now. I did not do anything."Days later, Bensimon's attorney at the time, Lauren Wolpin of Aspen, released a seemingly benign statement that read: "There has been an misunderstanding concerning the events that occurred at the Costner wedding. Mr. Bensimon and his attorney are working diligently to resolve this matter quickly."Following those two statements, it was later revealed in newspaper reports that Bensimon allegedly signed a written confession with the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, the lead law-enforcement agency in the case. About a month later, Bensimon enlisted Denver attorney Pamela Mackey, whose portfolio includes her role defending NBA athlete Kobe Bryant against sexual assault allegations - allegations that were eventually dropped. Since hiring Mackey, Bensimon apparently has taken a backseat to the hoopla surrounding his case. But many times when high-profile people find themselves in a legal mess, they mistakenly opt to go public with their side of the story, says Elliot Mintz, a media consultant whose clients have included John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and most recently, Woody Creek's Don Johnson of "Miami Vice" fame."It's really best not to make any public statements," Mintz says, "but as academic as that sounds, not many people heed such advice. To talk prior to going into a trial is usually a mistake."Like Caruba, Mintz said mum's the wise word until the court case has been resolved, be it exoneration or a conviction."At this moment he has only been charged, not convicted," Mintz notes. "People in that situation should listen to the advice of their attorney because they're about to enter a world unlike no other."Bensimon's Web site declares him as "one of the leading hairdressers in the world today." His advertisements in local publications aren't shy about touting his global reputation and his Hyman Avenue salon, known as Pascal Bensimon Hair Salon.His next hearing is scheduled for March 6 in Pitkin County District Court. Attorney Mackey stated in court papers that "parties hereto are working toward a pre-trial resolution of the matter."Costner also recently filed a victim-impact statement, recommending to the court that Bensimon spend some time in jail, perform useful public service, pay restitution and undergo counseling and anger-control treatment.But despite the rash of unbecoming publicity for Bensimon, Caruba says that the American public can be quite forgiving, especially with a crime like the one in which Bensimon has been charged."Whether he wins or loses he needs to take a vacation from the public spotlight because quite frankly, Americans are the most forgiving people in the world," Caruba said. Caruba also said it would behoove Bensimon to continue to advertise his salon, but market the services it provides instead of the person who provides them. And Bensimon's customers, if they are indeed satisfied with his hair styling services, likely won't be spooked away because of his legal drama, Caruba said."If he has a well-established reputation in the community as a competent hairstylist, then it's not likely his customers will desert him," Caruba says. "He's accused of a crime that does not involve personal injury. In that respect it's not something most people can relate to."And it appears that Bensimon is remaining tight-lipped; messages left this week at his Aspen salon were not returned. rcarroll@aspendailynews.com