MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The “Millionaire Madam's” battle to stay out of jail while avoiding a tell-all trial has been resolved, but her lawyers are already bracing for another fight: to keep her from being kicked out of the country.
Anna Gristina’s lawyer, Norman Pattis, told DNAinfo.com New York Wednesday that deportation is “certainly a risk” for the Scottish national, who pleaded guilty to one count of promoting prostitution Tuesday.
“We put one set of headaches on the shelf,” he said. “But we have new ones to deal with ahead.”
The suburban soccer mom, who was accused of running a high-end prostitution ring out of an East Side apartment, agreed to a deal with prosecutors in exchange for the four months she’d already served on Rikers Island. She’ll also have to serve five years probation.
But as a non-U.S. citizen convicted of a felony, Gristina is now in the crosshairs of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency known as ICE, whose agents will ultimately decide whether or not to pursue deportation proceedings against her.
Gristina’s dealngs with ICE won’t start until after she is sentenced on November 20, Pattis said.
The federal agency, which Pattis says would “strip search the Statue of Liberty if it had the chance,” can ask her to come in for interviews with ICE officials, and then decide whether to refer her case to a federal immigration judge. That judge will ultimately decide whether to remove her from the country.
Under the rules of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, the judge has to weigh whether Gristina committed a "crime of moral turpitude” significant enough to warrant an order to remove her from the country, sources said.
Prosecutors charged Gristina with running a a high-powered prostitution ring with a client list that included high-profile public officials, and law enforcement sources said she brokered a sex romp for former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.
They originally brought the Gristina probe as a public corruption case, claiming they had five years worth of wiretaps where they heard Gristina boasting of high-profile johns and of having close contacts among cops who were protecting her.
But after her arrest in February and stint in jail, Gristina never named names and prosecutors weren't able to make the corruption allegations stick. She pleaded guilty to a single count of promoting prostitution by providing a pair of prostitutes for an undercover officer to watch have a sex romp.
In the months leading up to her plea, Pattis had often said that deportation was a significant reason for not cutting a deal with prosecutors.
But Pattis said Gristina was willing to risk deportation to “protect the ones she loves,” saying that the evidence prosecutors wished to use at trial could have “destroyed the reputation of the people closest to her.”
Pattis disputed whether crimes of moral turpitude were standards for Gristina's removal, but, ultimately, he says, there will be many points of contention if ICE does decide to pursue Gristina’s deportation.
However, he said he’s confident that if ICE does start to examine Gristina’s case, her “ties to the country and contributions to the community” should convince them to keep her in the U.S
But Gristina may face a bigger challenge than getting booted out of the country.
Along with warning her about her possibility of deportation, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan made clear on Tuesday that her plea deal isn’t set in stone until her sentence.
“My promise is conditional,” Merchan told Gristina after she accepted the deal.
He warned Gristina that if she says anything to officials or the media that “causes me concern” or “minimizes your guilt” he wouldn’t accept her plea, or the DA’s offer.