The Upper East Side "Mommy Madam" is still the focus of the tabloids, with an exclusive interview with her, from Rikers no less, in the New York Post. (She's also on the paper's cover again, garnering all of its real estate. Note the headline: "Madam Tells..." If not "all," then at least something. What is she telling?
Post writer Jeane Macintosh lets Anna Gristina pretty much speak for herself, with the effect of mostly making the paper seem sympathetic and even in support of the alleged Madam. Of course, the Post loves a Madam (this is their bread and butter!); they save their ire for women who say they've been raped. In any case, Gristina reveals a few things, though not much. Among the good tidbits from the interview:
Investigators apparently showed Gristina "a list of 10 Big Apple power players... and demanded she spill the beans on the roster of real-estate moguls and investment bankers." (She claims half of them were "friends or business associates" but we still don't get much of a glimpse of who those 10 names are.)
“The ones I knew were people I’ve known for a long time who are in politics, investing and real estate,” Gristina recalled, noting that she knew “about five or so” of the men.
Gristina says her not talking is what led to the charge of promoting prostitution, insinuating the charge is an intimidation tactic. "They are clearly trying to break me," she says. Dramatically, she claims "I’d bite my tongue off before I’d tell them [prosecutors, not the media] anything." She denies that she trafficked underage girls, and says she was just living a simple life, having a hard time paying her daughter's college tuition, among other things. "Our utilities are always on the verge of being shut off,” Gristina said. “I can show you the bills." The New York Daily News shares a less compassionate view, with prosecutors believing she's hiding the supposed millions the brothel made. ADA Charles Linehan told a judge, "'We’re trying to identify and seize bank accounts,' but after a five-year investigation into high-end prostitution and public corruption, the money trail has grown cold."
Gristina holds to the statement that, upon her arrest, she had been meeting with Morgan Stanley financial adviser David Walker (who's since been placed on administrative leave) to work out a legitimate online dating service -- not an online prostitution business -- with Jaynie Mae Baker, who's accused of being her co-madam and who is, apparently, not on the lam but on vacation. "Baker, Gristina said, just learned that prosecutors have charged her with promoting prostitution." Gristina's one admission is that she may have bragged about being friends with cops, FBI agents, and politicians, to make herself "sound better." Yet, from the Daily News: "'I’m not stupid. I don’t have a $2 million home and claim $30,000 a year to the IRS,' she was heard saying on tape."
As for her Rikers lodgings, where she's being held in lieu of $2 million bail, Gristina is in solitary confinement in a room "about 150 feet long" that she says is "sweltering" and "smells like cat urine." (The Post also has a glimpse inside her alleged brothel, for comparison's sake -- it's not that luxurious, either; a fascinating tidbit from yesterday was that the ladies kept their earnings in the microwave.)
The Rikers staff is nice, however, says Gristina. Are they as nice as the New York Post? Madams must sell papers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.