'Millionaire Madam' Anna Gristina Denied Lower Bail Again
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A judge shot down alleged "Millionaire Madam" Anna Gristina's latest attempt to get her $2 million bail reduced in court Monday, despite her lawyer's pleas to let her return to her family.
Gristina, 44, has been held at Rikers Island since Feb. 22 on a single count of promoting prostitution for allegedly running a high-end brothel on the Upper East Side for more than a decade.
The mother of four appeared before a new judge, Justice Charles Solomon, after attorney Gary Greenwald tried to argue that Justice Juan Merchan had acted "irrationally" and "unfairly" when he set her bail at $2 million.
"This is not a situation where you have a drug dealer, a murderer, organized crime," he argued, offering Gristina's father-in-law's and brother-in-law's houses in Sullivan County as collateral as part of a proposed new deal.
But Solomon didn't buy Greenwald's argument that Merchan treated the suspected madam unfairly and sent Gristina back to Rikers.
"In my opinion his ruling is not an abuse of his discretion," Solomon said.
Prosecutors have maintained that Gristina's sky-high bail is justified because the Scottish-born blonde is a potential flight risk, with a British passport and wealthy connections worldwide. Gristina had allegedly also bragged about having law enforcement sources that could tip her off to investigations.
In court Monday, prosecutors alleged they had evidence that Gristina had fled to Canada for four weeks in 2008 after being tipped off that she was being looked at as part of the prostitution probe into former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
"As soon as she was tipped off, she fled to Canada," prosecutors said. "There’s no plainer example that she is a risk of flight."
But her lawyer said the trip didn't mean anything, because she wasn't being sought.
"The word is witness, not a defendant…There were no criminal charges. So she never ran away from anything," Greenwald said later outside the courthouse, arguing that the DA’s office never attempted to charge her or submit her to questioning.
"In that given case, she was friendly with some of the people who were involved in the Spitzer case.... I don’t think she knew anything about the Spitzer case at all," he said.
Greenwald also argued that his client's bail wasn't fair in part because bail for her alleged accomplice, Jaynie Mae Baker, was set significantly lower, at only $100,000, even though she didn't immediately turn herself in.
"When my client got arrested, Ms. Baker goes to Mexico," he charged.
Gristina almost didn't make it to the appearance after a mix-up delayed her arrival until late afternoon.
When she finally arrived, she was wearing the same black-and-white patterned shirt she wore during her last appearance. Much of the time, she slumped forward and kept her hands close to her face in an attempt to block photographers from snapping her photo.
She smiled slightly as she was led out of the courtroom with her hands in cuffs.
Following the hearing, Greenwald, who plans to appeal the decision later this week, said that Gristina was holding up well.
"You can’t help but love this lady. She’s such a spunky little thing," he said, recounting the conversation they had in the moments following her appearance.
"She said, 'This is the way they do things here. They break me. I am not going to be broken,'" he said, adding that Gristina's main priority is to be reunited with her family.
Earlier Monday morning, in a separate appearance in front of Justice Merchan, Greenwald asked the court to force the District Attorney's office to provide him with some of the still-sealed evidence collected over the course of the investigation, including warrants for wiretaps and information about when investigators stopped listening in on irrelevant calls.
"I very much disagree with the district attorney with what I'm entitled to," said Greenwald, who described the case as "chock full of eavesdropping."
"I think we made everything we're required to available to Mr. Greenwald," prosecutors countered.
But Merchan refused to make a decision and chastised both sides for involving him in the fight over releasing the evidence.
"I'm just asking both sides here... I don't want to get involved in gamesmanship. I don't want to get involved in handholding," he said.
Gristina's husband, Kelvin Gorr, who spent the morning conversing with his wife's lawyers and listening in on the proceedings, donned a jet-black suit with an open collar.
Gristina is accused of making millions of dollars during the 15 years she allegedly ran a high-end brothel from an apartment at 304 E. 78th St., with the assistance of law enforcement. She was arrested on Feb. 22 and has been held on Rikers Island on $2 million bail since.
Gristina’s reputed "black book" of clients allegedly contains numerous powerful, wealthy and politically connected players, sources have said.