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'Millionaire Madam' Says She's Too Poor to Pay Lawyer

By DNAinfo Staff on March 12, 2012 12:23pm  | Updated on March 12, 2012 7:26pm

Anna Gristina in court Monday, March 12.
Anna Gristina in court Monday, March 12.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

By Shayna Jacobs and Adam Nichols

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — "Millionaire Madam" Anna Gristina is too poor to pay for an attorney, one of her lawyers told a judge Monday.

Gristina is charged with earning millions of dollars running a brothel in an Upper East Side apartment. But one of her attorneys argued in Manhattan Supreme Court that she's impoverished and deserves a court-appointed lawyer.

"She doesn't have two nickels to rub together," said Peter Gleason, a lawyer who's been representing Gristina pro bono.

He was asking Judge Juan Merchan to allow her to be represented by a state appointed lawyer, which would be paid for by taxpayers.

Gristina, a mother of four who is suspected of making millions during the15 years she allegedly ran a high-end brothel from an apartment at 304 East 78th St., was arrested on Feb. 22 and has been held on Rikers Island on $2 million bail on a single charge of promoting prostitution.

Gleason offered on Monday to put up his TriBeCa apartment as collateral to help Gristina make bail, and he offered to let her and her family move in if the judge ordered that she be placed under house arrest.

He said Gristina is willing to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

"It's right around the corner from where Dominique Strauss-Kahn was confined to his home," he said. "She's not going anywhere."

The judge is expected to rule on that application on Thursday.

Gleason also complained that Gristina's bail has been set way too high considering the severity of the charge, a single count of promoting prostitution, which does not mandate a prison sentence upon conviction.

He argued that the infamous "Mayflower Madam" Sydney Biddle Barrows was granted $7,500 bail upon her arrest in the 1980s, but the judge did not change his mind and told the lawyer that he set bail in the millions for a number of reasons. 

"I couldn't tell you what the bail was on the Mayflower Madam's case, but I can tell you as you know from the [law] and from case law there are many factors that go into determining bail," Merchan said, reiterating that prosecutors believe she's fled the country in the past when she believed she was being watched.

He warned Gristina that she would be in trouble if it was discovered she did have money.

"If it comes to light at a later time that, in fact, you have the money and the means to pay for legal representation," he said, "I will fully expect you to repay back every penny that the courts have paid to provide an attorney for you."

The alleged "Millionaire Madam," who was dressed in the same conservative herring-bone suit she wore during a bail hearing last week, was in court Monday to try to replace her existing court-appointed lawyer, Richard Siracusa. Gleason complained Siracusa had never been to Rikers Island to visit her.

The judge refused her request, saying Siracusa was "competent."

Gristina's alleged accomplice, Jaynie Mae Baker, was expected to turn herself into prosecutors Tuesday, sources said. She's been missing since Gristina was arrested.