Anna Gristina's Bail Reduced from $2M to $250K
MANHATTAN — A state appeals court ruled unanimously to reduce alleged "Millionaire Madam" Anna Gristina's bail from $2 million to $250,000 bond or $125,000 cash on the condition that she wear an electronic ankle bracelet.
In their decision, the panel of five judges said they found "the amount of bail set by the trial court was unreasonable and an abuse of discretion," in a clear slap at Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who set the high bail for the self-proclaimed soccer mom, and repeatedly rebuffed efforts to reduce it.
Gristina's lawyer, Norman Pattis, said that he and Gristina are "of course, grateful to the appellate court, and pleased that Anna is one step closer to home."
The decision comes just a few days after a brief but fiery hearing in the Appellate Division, First Department in which a panel of judges grilled prosecutors about Gristina's high bail.
Gristina was held on $2 million bail despite being charged with a single count of promoting prostitution — an "unprecedented" move that Gristina's lawyer called a "tool of interrogation" to pressure Gristina as an "inducement to cooperate" with authorities.
Prosecutors said Gristina, who's at the center to an ongoing investigation into an alleged $15 million high-priced escort service, is a flight risk because of her Scottish citizenship, her home in Canada and her British passport, which she has since surrendered. She was allegedly caught on wiretap bragging about her plans to flee the country in case authorities caught on to her scheme, prosecutors said.
The soccer mom, who has been cooling her heels on Rikers Island since her Feb. 23 arrest, has tried four times to have her bail reduced. But each time, the judge rejected her legal team's arguments.
On June 1, her new lawyer, Connecticut legal eagle Norman Pattis, sent a letter to Justice Juan Merchan arguing that his client needed to be released in order to care for her 9-year-old son, who was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur.
According to the note, Gristina was "distraught and despondent over her inability to provide care and comfort to her son in this stressful period."
While the note said that "the overwhelming majority of children who so suffer recover without permanent injury," the boy was set undergo further testing.
Gristina, who faces a single charge of promoting prostitution, has had nine separate defense attorneys represent her since her case began.
Pattis, a high-profile defense attorney, replaced Gary Greenwald, who Gristina dumped because he tried to negotiate a plea, sources said.
Lawyer Peter Gleason was also temporarily on Gristina's legal team, and offered to represent her pro bono and to put up his $2.5 million Tribeca condo as collateral.
The accused madam's family set up a website in April to raise funds for Gristina's bail.
The site, which features Gristina posing in pictures with two of her children, as well as a photo of her pet pigs, says she was being held in solitary confinement under difficult conditions.
"Please help us fight this injustice," the site said. "This insult to the American way of life."
Her alleged accomplice, Jaynie Mae Baker, meanwhile, is free on $100,000 bail. Baker, who is also facing a single charge of promoting prostitution, allegedly worked as a recruiter for the Manhattan matchmaking service.
According to officials, Gristina ran a multi-million dollar prostitution ring out of an apartment on East 78th Street for 15 years, supplying prostitutes, including some who were allegedly underage, for a bevy of powerful men.
She allegedly bragged that she was connected to law enforcement officials who would tip her off if she came under investigation or if her business interests were being watched.
Gristina shares a farm in upstate Monroe, N.Y., with her husband, Kelvin Gorr, and her children.