Anna Gristina, the New York woman charged with running a brothel prosecutors said catered to high- net-worth clients, may consider a plea deal, according to her newly assigned lawyer, Gary Greenwald.
Justice Juan Merchan of state Supreme Court in Manhattan today accepted Greenwald as Gristina’s new lawyer, while rejecting the attorney’s request to lower her bail, which is set at $1 million in cash, or a $2 million bond. Gristina is being held at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex.
Greenwald said after today’s hearing that his client is “upset” about being in jail, and that he’s seeking tapes and documents the prosecution developed in its five-year investigation of the 44-year-old. Gristina said she has refused to give investigators any information about possible high- profile clients, the New York Post has reported.
The lawyer told reporters today after the hearing that while reaching a plea deal is a possibility, “that doesn’t mean we will.”
Gristina’s former lawyer, Peter Gleason, maintained his offer to use his $2.5 million apartment to guarantee her appearance for trial, and have her and her family stay with him. Gristina, a mother of four, has pleaded not guilty.
Greenwald, who once represented the late Mafia leader Vincent Gigante, was hired last night by Gristina’s family. He argued that his client’s bail should be much lower given that her co-defendant, Jaynie Baker, is out on $100,000 bail. Baker, 30, has also pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting prostitution along with Gristina.
“Ultimately, it goes to the risk of flight,” Merchan said. He said there was no proof that when Gristina went to Canada in 2008, it wasn’t with the motive of escaping an investigation, as prosecutors have alleged.
Concerns that Gristina is a flight risk aren’t valid, Greenwald said.
“I think that is both a misnomer and a red herring that has no relevance,” according to Greenwald. He said there was no proof Gristina hadn’t gone to Canada for other reasons. He also said she and her family didn’t have the $200,000 minimum in cash required to post a bond.
Gristina, who lived in Monroe, New York, is a legal permanent resident of the U.S. and a British subject.
“I submit she has many well-placed, well-heeled individuals who are in a position to bail her out,” Assistant District Attorney Charles Linehan told Merchan.
He also said he believes there is a good argument that Gristina should receive the maximum sentence, which is two and one-third to seven years.
The investigation turned up “at least one eyewitness account” of a sexual encounter arranged by Gristina in which minors were involved, Linehan told Merchan on Feb. 23, a day after her arrest, according to a court transcript.
At the time of her arrest, Gristina was in the office of “a Morgan Stanley (MS) banker who she counts as a close friend,” Linehan said. The Morgan Stanley employee is David Spencer Walker, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Gristina was at Walker’s office “for a meeting in which she was trying to solicit money to fund what we believe is another illicit business venture on the Internet that involves matching up male clients with female prostitutes,” said Linehan, of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s official corruption unit.
Prosecutors haven’t accused Walker of wrongdoing or identified him publicly. He works for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, the firm’s retail brokerage, said the person, who didn’t want to be identified because Walker wasn’t named in the case.
Walker has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation, Jim Wiggins, a spokesman for Morgan Stanley, said previously.
The case is People v. Gristina, 12-00751, New York state Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
To contact the reporter on this story: Tiffany Kary in state Supreme Court in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
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