A New York City lawyer has been removed from a case involving a high-end prostitution ring because the judge, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan found his relationship with the accused “Madam” to be “murky.” Attorney Peter Gleason had put up his own $2.5 million New York City loft as collateral on the $2 million bond for Anna Gristina (shown here in a photo with her husband).
Prosecutors had objected to the “murky” relationship between Gleason and Gristina. Merchan simply announced that Gleason is “no longer an attorney in the case. He’s an attorney who wants to put up his apartment for collateral.”
It presents an interesting question. I am not sure that merely supplying collateral is enough to remove an attorney, but it presents a novel question. Clearly attorneys may not work on criminal cases on a contingency basis due to ethical rules. What made this more suspicious was Gleason’s proposal to have Gristina live with him in his Tribeca loft. She needs to pay ten percent on the $2 million bond to get out of Rikers.
I am troubled by the size of the bond and lack of clear evidence of a flight risk in the case. I am particularly troubled by reports that the prosecutors offered to reduce or withdraw the demands of bond if she supplied them with “certain information.” That would appear, if true, an abuse of the process. Yet, this article says that Marchan stated that he would not second-guess the prosecutors. I thought that was the idea of an independent judicial review on such questions. Bond is not supposed to be used to coerce cooperation. It is merely to help guarantee the appearance of the witness. While Gristina is British-born, she could be placed on monitored release. Surrendering your passport is a standard requirement in such cases.
As for Gleason’s offer, the replacement counsel insisted that it was done out of the best of motivations. Yet, the prosecutors told the court that it should treat the offer as some per se barrier to representation: “Mr. Gleason also stated that he did not care whether the defendant was guilty or innocent, a sentiment one might expect from a close friend, but less so from one’s defense counsel.” That could be snide comment leveled against an array of representational relationships between defense counsel and a defendant.
Once again, I fail to see why such a suggestion constitutes a basis for severance of representation. Even if they were friends, that is not a per se barrier to representation. While other lawyers and a well-known accountant have been arrested, Gleason did not allege that Gleason was a customer of the brothel. It is incumbent on the judge to supply a more compelling basis to deny an accused person the counsel of her choice. I know of no per se rule barring an attorney from supplying collateral on a bond anymore than a rule barring counsel from waiving or delaying payment on fees. It is not necessary a good or advisable practice, but it does not create a conflict of interest since it would presumably only add to the attorney’s commitment to have his client appear in court. At a minimum, there should be a full explanation of the basis for this ruling — other than a desire not to second guess the prosecution on such matters (as reportedly done on the bond issue).
Perhaps our New York lawyers can help us with this? Is there a per se rule on such assistance from counsel in New York?
Source: NY Daily News as first seen on ABA Journal