Fall trial set for mom accused of being NYC madam

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Associated Press

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 16 at 6:30 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A suburban mother charged with running an upscale, urbane escort service is headed for trial after a judge declined Thursday to throw out the case.

The judge set an Oct. 15 trial date in Anna Gristina's case, which has been spiced with prosecutors' claims that she had a roster of wealthy, well-placed clients and boasted of law-enforcement connections during 15 years in a business that made her millions. She says she was merely starting a dating service.

She is charged only with a single count of promoting prostitution, stemming from a July 2011 tryst she allegedly arranged involving two women and an undercover officer posing as a client. While prosecutors said they may seek to bring up other allegations, the judge warned that the trial wouldn't become a sprawling airing of prosecutors' 5-year-long investigation.

"This is a very narrow issue, and we're going to keep this trial very focused. I'm not going to just allow this thing to get out of hand," Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said.

Released on $250,000 bond late in June after four months behind bars, a composed, cheerful-looking Gristina came to court with her husband and three of her four children. The court date came days after news that an alleged accomplice struck a deal with prosecutors.

Co-defendant Jaynie Baker, a former matchmaking recruiter charged with helping Gristina set up sexual encounters, has reached a deal to resolve her case, a person familiar with the case said earlier this week, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement has not been aired in court. Baker, 31, wasn't in court Thursday and isn't due back until Oct. 2.

The Manhattan district attorney's office and Baker's lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, have declined to comment on the development.

Asked outside court whether she was concerned about Baker potentially testifying against her, Gristina said she wasn't. Her lawyer, Norman Pattis, says he doesn't believe Baker has any harmful information.

Gristina, who will turn 45 next week, was arrested Feb. 22 as she left a friend's Morgan Stanley office after a fundraising meeting for her business, prosecutors say.

In trying to get the case dismissed, Pattis wrote that the DA's office "vindictively prosecuted her as a result of her failure to cooperate with investigators" during what he called an illegal interrogation.

Gristina said in court papers that investigators shrugged off her requests for a lawyer and told her they'd let her go if she gave them information about five men — not named in her filings, but described as a financier, an international banker and a member of a politically connected family, among others.

The DA's office countered in court papers that Gristina "has not produced a shred of evidence of actual vindictiveness."

A grand jury indicted Gristina before her arrest, undermining her argument that she was prosecuted because she didn't cooperate, Assistant District Attorneys Elizabeth Roper and Charles Linehan wrote.

The judge's ruling said simply that there was adequate evidence for the case to go forward.

If convicted, Gristina could face up to seven years in prison.

Two alleged prostitutes and an accused money-launderer also have been arrested in the case.

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Follow Jennifer Peltz at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz

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