Updated 3/15, 12:05 p.m. ET: Anna Gristina has been denied a lower bail, per a Manhattan judge who cited a flight risk. Gristina also changed lawyers, dropping Peter Gleason, the attorney who had offered to have Gristina and her family move in with him, and hiring Gary Greenwald, according to NBC New York.
Original story: The defense attorney who has drawn criticism for offering his own home as a venue for house arrest for his client — a suburban soccer mom accused of running a high-end Manhattan prostitution ring — claimed Thursday that she is being “railroaded” and said he knows of no black book of alleged clients that might allow her to cut a plea deal.
Peter Gleason is willing to put his own $2.5 million Manhattan loft up as collateral for Anna Gristina’s $2 million bail, and is requesting that Gristina be allowed to serve house arrest under electronic monitoring at his posh home, with her family also moving in. Three weeks after being arrested, Gristina, 44, is currently in prison at Riker’s Island as she awaits her trial.
Gristina has not produced any sort of smoking gun, such as a black book with names and addresses of alleged prostitution clients, that might allow her to cut a plea deal. Gleason doesn’t know if she has one.Story: NYC ponders: Suburban mom or high-rolling madam?
“I’ve never asked her if there’s a so-called black book,’’ Gleason said. “It’s irrelevant. She is innocent in the eyes of the law as we sit here.’’
Gleason, who has taken the case pro bono, has drawn criticism from others in his profession for the bizarre nature of his request, which has been called “unethical’’ by the prosecution. A judge will rule on Thursday regarding his unusual request for Gristina, who is charged with running a high-end prostitution ring that generated millions over the course of 15 years catering to wealthy clientele.Video: Will alleged madam serve house arrest in posh pad? (on this page)
“In order to give her fair representation, a fair trial, she needs to … get out of that terrible place, Rikers Island,’’ Gleason told Matt Lauer Thursday.
To reporters, he said: “I really, honestly, truly in my heart feel she is being railroaded by the legal system. I feel so comfortable giving them access to my place. I want them to move in with me.’’
Madam or matchmaker?
Gristina has pleaded not guilty along with her co-defendant, Jaynie Baker, 30, who turned herself in on Tuesday and was released on $100,000 bond after being charged with promoting prostitution in the third degree. Baker’s attorney would not comment on any connection to Gristina and why his client’s bail was so much lower, simply saying that Baker worked as a legitimate matchmaker.
Gristina’s defense team has presented a similar argument, saying that she simply was trying to create a matchmaking website and is far from a wealthy madam.
“It took the prosecutors five years to have her arrested?’’ Gleason told Lauer. “If she’s been doing this for five years, shouldn’t you arrest somebody as soon as you find them doing something? I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around this. That’s why I am very engaged in this case.’’
Gleason’s initial concern was the rumor that Gristina may have used underage girls in her service.
“When I was first brought on, there was this ominous cloud over her head that she was peddling underage girls,’’ he said. “I said, ‘If there’s any semblance of truth to that, I want no part of this case.’ ’’
The Scottish-born Gristina has a British passport and an apartment in Montreal. The prosecution considers her a flight risk if she is allowed to go live in Gleason’s home because a potential wealthy client could help her escape, or she could have money hidden away to facilitate her flight. Gleason noted that the prosecution is currently in possession of Gristina’s passport.
“She’s the most recognized face, perhaps, in the world today, based on the coverage here,’’ Gleason said. “I don’t think she’s fleeing anywhere.’’Video: Alleged madam’s lawyer ‘didn’t ask’ about black book (on this page)
Gleason is a former police officer who unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2009. He has never handled a felony criminal case before, and Lauer questioned him on his qualifications to defend Gristina.
“I’m an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of New York, which allows me to walk into any courtroom in this state,’’ Gleason said.
Gleason noted his boyhood admiration for Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and civil rights lawyer William Kunstler and what he described as their fights against the hypocrisy of the system.
He believes that similar hypocrisy has reared its head in this case.
“It deals with hypocrisy, and it deals with the people I idolized as a child who also despised hypocrisy,’’ Gleason said.
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