A matchmaking recruiter charged with helping to run a big-money brothel turned herself in Tuesday to face charges and pleaded not guilty.
Jaynie Mae Baker left court on $100,000 bond after her arraignment on a low-level felony count of promoting prostitution. Reputed madam Anna Gristina, Baker's alleged co-defendant, has pleaded not guilty to the same charge.
Prosecutors say the investigation is continuing, and they have suggested there could be more to the case. They've said that Gristina, a suburban mother who's accused of providing prostitutes to power brokers, was heard during a five-year investigation claiming she had contacts in law enforcement.
Baker's whereabouts had been unknown for days. She was on vacation — not on the lam — in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb said Tuesday. She'd gone to California and then Mexico to keep her younger sister company as the sister grapples with a difficult divorce, he said.
After friends told Baker last week that reporters were massed outside her apartment and looking for her, she called Gottlieb on Thursday, and he contacted prosecutors on Friday to say she'd surrender, he said. She flew back Saturday and was prepared to turn herself in Monday, he said.
"There was never any question of her coming back to face these charges," Gottlieb said after court as he described his client as a dedicated charity volunteer and matchmaker, not a madam.
He wouldn't discuss whether Baker knows Gristina or the allegations against them.
Baker was listed until recently as a recruiter for high-end matchmaking service VIP Life, but founder Lisa Clampitt said Baker was a freelancer who never ended up referring a client or getting paid during the six months she was associated with the service.
Gottlieb said "there is nothing sordid, nothing illegal" in Baker's work, and her life outside it includes an extensive list of charitable projects, from working in New York soup kitchens to traveling with priests to aid a Romanian orphanage to going to India to help get clothing to the poor.
"Ms. Baker is a wonderful, good-hearted, decent young woman ... a compassionate, caring and very socially conscious young woman," he said.
But prosecutors painted another picture.
"We have had numerous informants over the years who have, at times, discussed Ms. Baker's role in the (prostitution) operation," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Charles Linehan said in court on Tuesday.
Prosecutors "anticipate we will develop additional evidence against" her, he added.
Still, prosecutors agreed to her $100,000 bond, a sharp contrast from the $2 million bond that has kept Gristina, 44, at the city's Rikers Island jail since her arraignment last month.
Prosecutors have said the Scottish-born Gristina, who remains a British citizen, had said she would flee if she got in trouble and may have money stashed away to do so.
One of her lawyers, Peter J. Gleason, has said she's broke — so much so that he has offered his own $2.5 million Manhattan loft to secure her bail and to serve as a house-arrest site for her. A hearing on the unusual proposal is set for Thursday.
If convicted, Gristina and Baker each could face up to seven years in prison.