Judge Delays Approval of 'Millionaire Madam's' New Legal Team

By Murray WeissMary Johnson and Ben Fractenberg  on May 9, 2012 2:39pm  | Updated on May 9, 2012 5:56pm

MANHATTAN — Alleged “Millionaire Madam” Anna Gristina is trying to bring in a new team of defense attorneys, after her previous lawyer, Gary Greenwald, tried to negotiate a plea deal without her consent while she sat in jail for months on $2 million bail, sources said.

But after a court hearing on Wednesday, Judge Juan Merchan said he had "serious concerns" about granting the application to change her legal team and will give prosecutors until Tuesday to consider any conditions they would like to set before a new legal team is put in place.

Norm Pattis, a high-profile criminal defense attorney based in Connecticut who has handled cases ranging from DUIs to capital murder, is among those trying to join Gristina's defense team.

Daniel Geller, who previously served as an intern in the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, is expected to join him and serve as a research assistant. And Peter Gleason, the attorney who agreed to represent Gristina free of charge after her indictment, has asked to stay on the defense team.

But Judge Merchan said he was concerned about what appeared to be another delay in the case against Gristina. He also had reservations about bringing in an out-of-state attorney, since Pattis works primarily out of Connecticut, and about Geller's limited legal experience.

"Isn’t there any attorney in the state of New York who is qualified and capable to represent you?” Merchan said.

In court Wednesday, Gristina told the judge she had fired Greenwald several times and that she needed someone she could "put her faith in."

“I didn’t choose Mr. Greenwald," Gristina told the judge. "My family did.”

According to a source, the problems with Greenwald erupted because, while he was working toward a plea deal, Gristina remained committed to fighting the charges in court.

“She wants to fight and mount a very spirited defense,” the source said. “She’s pissed at the way she’s been treated by the district attorney’s office.”

Shortly before the hearing, Greenwald issued a statement confirming the proposed change in counsel.

Anna Gristina, 44, appears in Manhattan Supreme Court on Mar. 15th, 2012.
Anna Gristina, 44, appears in Manhattan Supreme Court on Mar. 15th, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

“Anna Gristina is no longer my client. In order for a criminal case to positively proceed, it is necessary for both lawyer and defendant to maintain a shared vision for the course of the defense," Greenwald said in a statement.

"At this time, unfortunately this is not the case. I wish her new attorney great success.”

But until the judge formally relieves him, Greenwald remains Gristina's attorney.

Gristina, who is accused of running a brothel on the Upper East Side, has been held at Rikers Island since her Feb. 22 arrest and has tried several times to get the bail, which her legal team has called excessive, reduced. 

But Merchan, as well as another judge, rejected the pleas after prosecutors argued that the accused madam, who has a British passport, was a flight risk.

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