Accused Monroe madam: Get me off the hook

A website has been launched to ask for donations to free Anna Gristina. (April 26, 2012)

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Accused Monroe madam Anna Gristina is asking for donations to raise money for $2 million bail in a case where she is charged with running a high-end prostitution ring in Manhattan.

The family of the woman launched the website helpanna.org April 21 and is asking for contributions while decrying her confinement on Rikers Island.

Prosecutors in Manhattan accuse Gristina, 44, of running the prostitution ring out of an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Gristina, the ex-wife of a Putnam County politician who is remarried with four children in southern Orange County, was arrested Feb. 22 following her indictment by a Manhattan grand jury. She pleaded not guilty and has been held on $2 million bail since her arraignment, despite repeated pleas by her lawyers for a lower bond.

Her former husband, Dario Gristina, who lives in Putnam Valley, is a Republican candidate for New York State Assembly.

Gristina's family wants the public to kick in to get her released while her case is pending. Officials contend she is a flight risk.

"There is never a day, a morning, an hour, a minute that goes by that we don't miss our mother, Anna Gristina-Gorr," a message on the website reads.

Her family rails against her Rikers Island jailing, saying she's being kept in solitary confinement.

"As if this wife and mother was a war criminal," the site reads, "Rats and roaches scurry all around her. The authorities humiliated her further by attempting to make her wear only a t-shirt and diaper."

A spokeswoman for the city's Department of Corrections said Gristina's claims are a bid from her family to gain sympathy.

"These allegations by Ms. Gristina are completely false," spokeswoman Sharman Stein said.

Gristina is not being held in solitary, she said, but in protective custody with six other female inmates with whom she is allowed to mingle several hours a day. She also is allowed out of her cell for several hours a day and is wearing her own clothes, Stein said, adding that no vermin have been found in her area of the jail.

Gristina's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Investigators probed Gristina's Manhattan business for five years, prosecutors said, noting that she has reaped millions of dollars running the prostitution ring for more than a decade. They asked a Manhattan judge for the high bail because she has wealthy and influential clients and friends who could help the Scottish immigrant flee the country. Prosecutors said that Gristina was overheard saying she would take off if she heard trouble was coming.

Gristina had money stashed away to run if she got word an arrest was coming down, prosecutors maintained.

Gristina's family paints a far different picture of the suburban mom on the website, saying she doesn't have money for bail.

The site features a photo gallery that includes pictures of Gristina with her children, her husband Kelvin Gorr holding an infant, and the beloved pigs that Gristina cares for as co-owner of a potbelly pig rescue program.

"To us, she is the woman who we call for when we are sick, who goes to our school plays and soccer games, who smiles in our eyes...It's not fair that she doesn't get to be with her family at this time."

Gristina faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of promoting prostitution. She is due back in court July 21, according to court records.

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