New York "Soccer Mom Madam" changes lawyers again

Reuters News
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Posted: May 15, 2012 6:54 PM
New York "Soccer Mom Madam" changes lawyers again

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The woman accused of running a multimillion-dollar brothel out of a Manhattan apartment switched lawyers again on Tuesday, bringing to nine the number of defense attorneys that have appeared on her behalf since her arraignment three months ago.

Anna Gristina, the suburban mother of four dubbed the "Soccer Mom Madam" by tabloids, appeared in Manhattan Supreme Court to ask a judge for permission to allow Connecticut criminal defense lawyer Norman Pattis to take over her case.

Judge Juan Merchan granted the request.

Pattis, who appeared alongside Gristina, will be aided by New York lawyer John Geida. The pair replaced Gary Greenwald and Elise Rucker.

But the judge, whose permission was required because Pattis is not licensed to practice in New York, warned Gristina that he would "take a really long look" at additional attempts to switch lawyers.

"This is your ninth lawyer," he said. "This is your trial team. If you are granted any subsequent application to substitute or relieve counsel, there will be no adjournments."

Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney's office have accused Gristina of masterminding an upscale prostitution ring for elite clients for decades. Her former lawyers have said she was running a dating service.

After years of wiretaps and surveillance, prosecutors have charged her with a single count of promoting prostitution, to which she has pleaded not guilty. She has been in jail for three months, as her lawyers attempt to reduce a $2 million bond.

The brief court appearance on Tuesday was the latest in a string of sometimes bizarre interactions between her various defense lawyers and Merchan.

One of her previous defense lawyers, Peter Gleason, made the unusual offer of putting up his apartment as collateral to pay her bail. Merchan later questioned the ethics of that request, but Gleason was no longer on the case by that time.

In another incident, Gleason and Gristina's initial court-appointed lawyer bickered with one another in open court.

Gristina is due back in court on July 31.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Paul Simao)