NEW YORK – Only three months into her case, a suburban mother accused of running a multimillion-dollar Manhattan escort service is on her fourth set of lawyers.
Anna Gristina tried Wednesday to swap her legal team for a fourth time, aiming to bring on a veteran Connecticut criminal defense and civil rights attorney.
A judge said no — at least for now — during a testy hearing. He upbraided Gristina for interrupting him, criticized the outspoken conduct of one of her former lawyers and also expressed concern that the legal merry-go-round is slowing down the case.
"I'm concerned about judicial efficiency in this case," state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said.
While raising four children and rescuing pigs at her home in Monroe, N.Y., Gristina arranged Manhattan assignations for wealthy clients for more than a decade and boasted of having law-enforcement connections who could protect her, the Manhattan district attorney's office says. Her former lawyers have said she was simply trying to start a dating business.
She has pleaded not guilty to promoting prostitution, a low-level felony. She's been held on $2 million bond since her February arrest, despite various lawyers' efforts to get lower bond. One prior attorney, Peter J. Gleason, even offered to put up his own Manhattan loft for bail.
Gristina is due back in court Tuesday for a decision on whether she can now be represented by New Haven, Conn.-based attorney Norman Pattis.
"I'm shopping avidly for someone I feel I can have faith in," Gristina told the judge Wednesday.
Although Gristina is hiring her own lawyers, the judge has a say because Pattis isn't licensed in New York and needs the court's OK to handle a case here, among other reasons.
Making matters more complicated, Gleason — who stepped down as Gristina's attorney in mid-March — aims to step back in, alongside Pattis. That doesn't sit well with Merchan, who chastised Gleason on Wednesday over various TV appearances and comments he has made to reporters.
Pattis has represented clients including Occupy New Haven, police officers accused of wrongdoing, and a woman charged with manslaughter in a car crash that killed two of her children.
Her current lawyer, Gary Greenwald, had said he wanted to gauge the possibility of a plea deal for Gristina, and the judge said Wednesday that Greenwald had been "actively involved in discussions with the district attorney's office" in recent weeks.
Greenwald declined to comment on whether there have been plea talks, saying only that he and Gristina no longer had "a shared vision for the course of the defense." The DA's office declined to comment.
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