An ex-madam’s take on the Anna Gristina prostitution bust
Almost four years ago, I was arrested for supplying Eliot Spitzer with call girls. The district attorney’s office instantly seized my assets and froze my bank accounts. I was charged with two felonies: money laundering in the first degree and promoting prostitution in the third degree. Bail was set at $4 million in cash or $2 million in assets. I was then taken to Rikers Island, where I spent nearly four months in solitary confinement, unable to make bail and scared to death.
This week another New York madam, Anna Gristina, was arrested. When I was in business, I knew of her. She ran a small, low-key business that operated mostly by word of mouth and did little advertising. She had been around forever.
In the wake of Gristina’s arrest, people have been asking me to provide my “expert” opinion on the industry and Anna’s indictment in particular. So here are my thoughts.
Who’s pulling the strings?
Let’s start with the most disturbing thing about this case: Gristina is charged with one count of promoting prostitution in the third degree, yet she was thrown in jail and her bail was set at $2 million.
For those of you non-criminals out there, promoting prostitution in the third degree is a Class D felony in New York. As a first-time offender, Gristina should be facing probation. There is no need to worry about flight risk or any of that nonsense because no one flees for probation. It’s a nothing charge that in many cases gets reduced to misdemeanor misconduct.
Perhaps the district attorney will add other charges, but I doubt it. The authorities have been investigating Gristina for five years and have 100 hours of audio of her talking. If there were other crimes to charge her with, they would have charged her with those by now.
It looks to me like someone is keeping Gristina in jail in order to scare her into being silent. But who could it be? It’s an election year, so my thoughts go to the politicians who were on my own client list and may very well have been on Gristina’s.
It’s important to remember that Gristina has been in business for 15 years. There is no such thing as longevity in a criminal enterprise. You don’t make a career out of being a madam. You make your money quick and then you get out. It’s as if the sands of the hour glass start moving the moment you open and you’re lucky if you get it to turn over once. Gristina evaded multiple strings of arrests — many of which occurred during the time that Eliot Spitzer was attorney general. There is no way that Gristina could have stayed in business without being tipped off by a high-ranking law enforcement official.
Winnie Wong, a booker who worked for me and for Ms. Gristina, told me that Eliot Spitzer had tipped off Gristina. I have taken and passed a lie detector test on this point. Spitzer abused his office to tell his favorite cat house that the heat was coming down (though the statute of limitations for tipping someone off about a case is only five years, so it may have expired by now).
The discrepancies in the indictment
Gristina is being prosecuted by the district attorney’s public corruption unit. This is highly uncommon in cases like this. The bulk of prostitution arrests are made by the sex crimes unit — HBO even did a special on this. The unit’s prominent assistant district attorneys are Eugene Hurley and Artie McConnell. They prosecuted me, Jason Itzler and even Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Why is the public corruption unit prosecuting Gristina’s case?
Another disturbing issue is the lack of a money laundering charge. Money laundering is a broad term which basically means taking the proceeds from a criminal activity. Every prostitution bust in New York in the last eight years has had a money laundering charge associated with it. And money laundering charges are heavy: a charge of money laundering in the first degree — which means laundering over $100,000 — is a Class C felony, which means a first-time offender is looking at one and a half to three years in jail.
Remember, the district attorney’s office is a business. Investigations cost money. The five-year investigation of Gristina must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In cases like this, the authorities usually seize assets in order to cover the cost of the investigation and fuel future investigations. Why have they not seized any assets and why is Gristina not charged with money laundering?
The press has reported that minors were involved in Gristina’s prostitution ring. I find this highly unlikely. If minors were involved, Gristina would be charged with promoting prostitution in the second degree. That is a Class C felony and Gristina would be facing a minimum of one and a half to three years in jail.
It’s logical to assume that if the district attorney’s office had been investigating Gristina for five years, they would know if minors were involved in her prostitution ring and they would have charged her accordingly.
It may just be a case of bait and switch. In my experience, some clients ask for extremely young girls (though I never employed anyone under the age of 21). I’m guessing Gristina’s girls were all over 18 but Gristina told her employees to lie about their ages in order to make the clients happy.
The pimp vs. pimp double standard
Right now, the self-professed “king of all pimps,” Jason Itzler, is sitting in Rikers on prostitution and money laundering charges. His initial bail set at arraignment was $500,000. It was lowered shortly thereafter to $200,000.
Jason Itzler is a five-time felon. He is a career criminal. He is looking at doing some serious jail time. Why is his bail one-fourth Gristina’s?
Then there’s the case of the New Jersey professor who was charged with 40 counts of promoting prostitution (he ran a brothel). His bail was set at $100,000.
It appears that even in our criminal justice system, it’s seen as more acceptable for a man to commit these crimes.
We need to start questioning why Manhattan’s district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is holding Anna Gristina on this bail amount and who he is protecting.
Kristin Davis is a former Manhattan madam who went to jail for supplying then-Governor Eliot Spitzer with call girls. She ran for governor of New York in 2010 on the Anti-Prohibition ticket.