You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.
You have the right to speak to an attorney (and/or have an attorney present).
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you? (Miranda Warning/ Emphasis the author’s)
CHICAGO, June 13, 2012— When any person is taken into custody for the purpose of interrogation, or placed under arrest and interrogated, they have certain rights.
One of those rights is legal representation.
The right to legal counsel includes:
- The right to speak to an attorney before deciding whether or not to talk to authorities.
- If the subject decides to talk, the right to consult with a lawyer before being interrogated.
- The right to answer questions only through an attorney.
If a person is in custody they must be given Miranda warnings prior to any interrogation. If at anytime during a custodial interrogation a person demands to speak to an attorney, an attorney must be present during the interrogation, or speak through an attorney, that demand must be met.
The interrogation must be stopped at that point until the demand for legal counsel is accommodated.
Which brings us to the sensational case of New York’s Anna Gristina, known in the media as the “hockey mom madam”.
Ms. Gristina, who lives in upstate New York with her family, was arrested in late February as part of a five year long anti-corruption investigation. Allegedly Anna Gristina was running a high priced brothel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The operation was described as a multi-million dollar entity.
There are allegations that powerful people, some who were clients, protected her operation, keeping it immune from investigations or arrests. People who worked for Ms. Gristina, including an accountant, cooperated with prosecutors.
Ms. Gristina was indicted and charged with one count of promoting prostitution, a low level nonviolent felony in New York State. She was remanded to jail with bail set at $1 million dollars. She has been incarcerated on Rikers Island since late February because she could not post bail.
Considering the single minor charge, the fact she was a first time offender, and has never been accused of a crime before, the bail and incarceration was unusually harsh.
During her incarceration she was regularly told if she cooperated and named names she would be released. In effect, her mouth held the key to her cell. She invoked her right to remain silent.
A New York State appellate court recently reduced her bail to $250 thousand dollars or $125 thousand dollars cash if she wore a GPS ankle bracelet. The unanimous decision stated the $1 million dollar bail was unreasonable and an abuse of judicial discretion.
After the bail reduction Ms. Gristina’s attorneys filed a sworn affidavit with the trial court accusing prosecutors of grossly violating Anna Gristina’s rights. According to the affidavit, Ms. Gristina repeatedly demanded and was continually refused legal counsel throughout her interrogation by prosecutors.
It is alleged the only reason she was charged and remanded with abusively high bond was her refusal give up the names of people allegedly protecting her operation.
Anti-corruption prosecutors wanted her to name several high profile clients, including a member of a highly influential political family, who allegedly protected her operation.
Prosecutors were not concerned with prostitution. They were only concerned with public corruption.
Ms. Gristina’s attorneys are attempting to get the case dismissed due to what they describe as “egregious prosecutorial misconduct”. They allege prosecutors were being purely vindictive in indicting, charging, and remanding her.
Based on the single minor charge and excessive bail they may be right.
There are no allegations Anna Gristina was a member of or protected by organized crime, lives were at stake over her cooperation or lack thereof, or that she was even servicing terrorists.
It is not even alleged she was involved in sex trafficking or slavery. This was not even a vice investigation. It was a public corruption fishing expedition.
Under normal circumstances Ms. Gristina would have been granted low bail and be sitting at home within a day or two of arrest. Anna Gristina has been in custody for over three months.
Prosecutors supposedly are licensed attorneys. They do not usually deny people their right to legal representation. One could wonder if these prosecutors passed a bar exam let alone went to law school.
New York City and its prosecutors must be operating under different rules and a different constitution than the rest of the nation. Tin pot dictatorships come to mind.
Nothing mandates cooperation with authorities, especially if said cooperation forces self-incrimination. There may be some social or moral obligation to cooperate, but there is no legal duty or responsibility. The criminal justice system does not operate under a moral or social code. It operates under a legal code.
If Ms. Gristina’s allegations are true, or at least believable in a court of law, she will probably beat this case. She may have a fabulous lawsuit to boot. It may not be whether the City of New York pays. It may be how much.
If the allegations presented in the sworn affidavit are true the real corruption in New York City lies with their anti-corruption prosecutors.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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