A suburban mother charged with moonlighting as a big-city madam was released from jail on bond Tuesday night, after four months behind bars in a case laced with claims of prominent clients and law-enforcement protectors.
Anna Gristina walked out of a Manhattan courthouse around 9 p.m., free for the first time since her February arrest. She was flanked by her husband and their 9-year-old son, who had arrived with a bouquet of red roses for his mother.
"Thank you, everybody - I just want to be with my family tonight, please," she said as they made their way through a crush of news photographers.
The Scotland-born Gristina, 44, is a mother of four who tends to rescued pigs at her home in Monroe, N.Y. But prosecutors say she also was the madam of an upscale sex service for 15 years, making millions of dollars and boasting that she had contacts in law enforcement who could tip her off if she was about to get busted.
Gristina has said she was merely starting a matchmaking service, not peddling prostitutes. She has pleaded not guilty to promoting prostitution, a low-level felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Gristina was arrested on Feb. 22 as she left a fundraising meeting at a friend's Morgan Stanley office, where she'd been trying to raise money for her business, prosecutors say.
Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan initially ordered her jailed on $2 million bond and declined requests to reduce it. But an appeals court called the amount "unreasonable and an abuse of discretion" and lowered it to $250,000 on June 12. A judge signed off on bail arrangements on Tuesday.
Gristina left court wearing a gray sweater, electric blue warm-up pants, the ankle monitor - and a wide smile.
"The nightmare of her bond ends today, and trial preparation begins tomorrow morning," said her lawyer, Norman Pattis, adding that they were looking forward to "when we walk out of this courtroom when we hear a verdict of 'not guilty.'" Gristina and her family got into a waiting SUV.
She'd been brought to the courthouse from jail so that her ankle monitor could be attached. "She was very scared, she was very nervous - she was very happy to be out," bail bondsman Ira Judelson said.
Gristina will be allowed to leave her home, Judelson said, adding that he'd set exact parameters in the days to come.
She's due back in court Aug. 17.
Ever since the appeals court lowered Gristina's bail, her supporters had been trying to put together the money, particularly after she decided to decline an offer from one of her former lawyers who was willing to put up his Manhattan loft apartment as collateral.
Judelson said Tuesday that a family friend put up property for Gristina's bond. He and defense attorney Norman Pattis declined to give specifics.
By law, prosecutors sometimes can review bail arrangements and raise objections if they think the money isn't legitimate. In Gristina's case, the DA's office didn't object, and Merchan OK'd the plan.
Gristina's 9-year-old son was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur, according to court papers her lawyer filed earlier this month to press her case for lower bail.
A woman accused of helping Gristina run the alleged escort service, two alleged prostitutes and an accused money-launderer also have been arrested in the case.