Dead Women Tell No Tales: The D.C. Madam Cover-Up
New York Times: “… The ‘isn’t it a pity’ theme frequently contrasts the heavy price paid by Ms. Palfrey and the women who worked for her — the life-wrecking, highly publicized prosecution that led to Ms. Palfrey’s conviction last month on racketeering and money-laundering charges (though notably, not for anything directly to do with paid sex) — with the light-to-nonexistent consequences suffered by most of the “johns” who patronized her escort service. Maddy Sauer of ABC News addressed the disparity today in a blog post, as did Monica Hesse in The Washington Post; reporting by her colleague Dana Millbank highlighted it during the trial last month. … Back to the dead-women-tell-no-tales story line: It seems to be widely taken for granted that Ms. Palfrey had more, bigger, juicier names to name than the handful of prominent customers who have surfaced — Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, who has clung to office; Randall L. Tobias, who had to resign his senior State Department post but who soft-landed as head of the Indianapolis Airport Authority; and Harlan Ullman, a top military strategist who advised the Bush Administration. …” – “Skepticism and Sadness After Death of ‘D.C. Madam’,” May 2, 2008
“… You add up the little pieces and it is clear that something much bigger than prostitution was involved. …”
Scoop.co.nz reports the Palfry’s was:
A CONVENIENT DEATH
FEW DEATHS could cause as much relief in Washington as did the alleged suicide of DC Madam Deborah Jean Palfrey. One need only consider the rapid demise of Governor Eliot Spitzer after it was discovered he had used a similar escort service to realize that Palfrey was not welcomed by many of the capital’s powerful men as a living repository of their sexual habits.
We are not speaking of a small number. Palfrey estimated her business involved some 10,000 clients – most in and around the most powerful city in America.
This is not to say that Palfrey did not commit suicide, only that her name may be reasonably added to those whose cause of death can not be – and may never be – firmly determined. …
What we do know about Palfrey is that her operation had some 10,000 male clients, and not one has been subject to legal prosecution. Two of the women involved, Jean Palfrey and Brandy Britton, both allegedly committed suicide and both by hanging. Palfrey indicated she didn’t know whether Britton killed herself, saying, “There are many, many family members who say this was not the case.” When radio host Alex Jones said to Palfrey in 2007, “And you’re not planning to commit suicide,” Palfrey responded, “And I’m not planning to commit suicide.”
There is no apparent logic for the massive legal assault on Palfrey. In fact, prostitution isn’t even a federal crime; she was charged under federal racketeering law. When her house was raided a year and a half ago, the swat squad went through everything but curiously ignored 46 boxes of information about her clients. Interestingly also, the attack began in earnest immediately after Palfrey had put her house on the market, closed her business, and transferred some money to Germany where she planned to retire. In fact, she was in Germany when US postal inspectors, pretending to be home buyers, illegally sought entrance into her house from a realtor without a warrant.
You add up the little pieces and it is clear that something much bigger than prostitution was involved. Was Palfrey being threatened because she had, in effect, decided to leave the mob taking along her many tales? Was she a bit player in some much larger blackmail operation? And did she end her life or did someone do it for her?
Our approach to such matters is to treat them as open cases. We do not presume a conspiracy, but neither do we accept the establishment’s approach of rushing to the conclusion most comfortable to itself. In this case, for example, there are some 10,000 members of the establishment with a vested interest in not examining the evidence too much.
We do know that the Palfrey case was one of the strangest prosecutions the capital has ever seen. Judges, prosecutors, the media and the political elite all seemed extraordinarily determined to put a cap on how much information the case revealed. So far, they have been quite successful.
AP The body of Deborah Jeane Palfrey was found in a shed near her mother’s home about 20 miles northwest of Tampa. Police said the 52-year-old Palfrey left at least two suicide notes and other writings to her family in a notebook, but they did not disclose their contents. Palfrey apparently hanged herself with nylon rope from the shed’s ceiling. Her mother discovered the body. . . Blanche Palfrey had no sign that her daughter was suicidal, and there was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs were involved, police Capt. Jeffrey Young said. . .
“I am sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years here, because I’m shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever,” Palfrey told ABC last year when she released phone records that revealed some of her clients. “Not for a second. I’ll bring every last one of them in if necessary.”
Dan Moldea, a Washington writer who befriended Palfrey while considering writing a book about her, said she was cautiously optimistic about her trial, even when the case went before the jury. After the conviction, Moldea sent her an e-mail but didn’t hear back. A week later, he said, he sent another note entitled “A Concerned Friend” asking whether she was OK. Again, he didn’t hear back. After hearing of her death, he recalled a conversation over dinner last year when the subject of prison came up. “She said, ‘I am not going back to prison. I will commit suicide first,'” Moldea said.
TIME Palfrey contacted Moldea last year to provide her help writing a book. “She had done time once before [for prostitution],” Moldea recalls. “And it damn near killed her. She said there was enormous stress – it made her sick, she couldn’t take it, and she wasn’t going to let that happen to her again.” . . .
When a former employee of Palfrey’s, Brandy Britton, hanged herself before going to trial, Palfrey told the press, “I guess I’m made of something that Brandy Britton wasn’t made of.”
Palfrey’s trial, which concluded in mid-April with a conviction, is one of very few such cases prosecuted in the federal courts. Most prostitution violations are dealt with at the state or municipal level, and attract little publicity. In the Palfrey case, prosecutors obliged a string of obviously embarrassed clients and employees of the escort service to appear on the witness stand and testify under oath. Nearly all testified that they had engaged in sexual acts in exchange for money, a version of events that contradicted Palfrey’s claims that she had been running a high-end sexual fantasy service – and that any actual sexual activity was against the rules, and clearly stated when employees were hired. . .
It was Palfrey’s phone records that led to problems for prominent Washington figures once her prosecution got under way. She had thousands of pages, including 10,000 to 15,000 numbers of clients calling in to her California residence. Besides Sen. Vitter, others whose names appeared on those records included Randall Tobias, a senior State Department official in charge of foreign aid – who had publicly inveighed against prostitution and who quickly resigned after his name was made public. Harlan Ullman, a well-known military specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, was also identified.
According to Moldea, who last year examined Palfrey’s phone records and discovered the name of Vitter, a Republican, as a client of Palfrey’s escort service – Pamela Martin & Associates – the last time he saw Palfrey in person was less than week before her conviction on prostitution charges on April 15. “A friend and I met with Jeanne and we had a sushi lunch near the courtroom,” he said. “She was upbeat and hopeful. She felt the prosecution had not made the case and that she was going to walk. She was hopeful to the end.” But, when the jury came in with her conviction, she reportedly was taken aback. “When I heard that I knew that, for her, it was all over. There is no question in my mind that she took her own life.”
HUGH SPRUNT, CAS BB – [Palfrey] undertook a number of actions prior to her death that were not consistent with a despondent/depressed person contemplating suicide. . . She tried to get her hands on at least one stock investment (that was declining in value like many stocks these days) so she could sell it and reinvest the proceeds (The feds had seized her investments as security for her being able to pay any fine associated with her eventual criminal penalties that likely would include a lot of jail time). Her attorneys and at least some of the reporters who covered her story have stated that she didn’t appear suicidal to them. .
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, MARCH 2008 – One thing is clear about the so-called DC Madam aka Deborah Jeane Palfrey case: there is a stunning contrast between the lid being kept on the names of male clients in this matter and the interest of the media compared to the speed with which Eliot Spitzer name became notorious in a similar DC case. Admittedly the alleged charges for a prostitute in the DC Madam case were far less than in the Emperor operation, but both were sufficient to attract the police.
Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen reported a name in the DC Madam case that was even more famous than Spitzers’ but there has been no denial and no libel suit, not to mention a striking lack of curiosity by the Washington press. Our own best guess as to why the DC Madam client list is being handled so gingerly: the appearance on it of too many good news sources not to mention the possibility of a few well known. media types as well.
Madsen reported dozens of high profile clients as well as a gag by top executives on the ABC reporters who were allowed to see the telephone list, allegedly after pressure from the White House. The story, in any case, is bizarre to say the least:
DEBORAH JEANE PALFREY, JULY 2007 – During the period when the decision to take the records off the market was made, Senior Executive Producer Rhonda Schwartz for Brian Ross, of ABC News, in New York approached [attorney] Mr. Sibley and me about the records. Told ABC News “does not pay for information,” they nonetheless would incur in our circumstance the expense of culling the billing invoices for possible witnesses, leads and general information, which ultimately could be beneficial to my defense.
Having gotten estimates at the time for the cost to research and back-track telephone numbers, along with subsequent owner data (tens of thousands of dollars), we gladly accepted ABC’s offer of assistance. In return, ABC asked that they be given exclusivity regarding the first public interview with me and more importantly, all of the phone records for years 1993 to 2006.
While the laborious task of copying and transferring the enormous amount of data to ABC was ongoing, the government went to Judge Kessler and obtained the current restraining order prohibiting either my civil counsel, Mr. Sibley or me from further distribution of the records. The government’s justification for the temporary injunction was witness harassment and intimidation — having abandoned its prior rationalization, i.e. asset forfeiture. Consequently, ABC received only 80% of years 2002 thru 2006.
Contrary to popular belief, they never had a complete set of all 13 years. In the final analysis, it really didn’t matter whether ABC had 4 years or 13, their constant assurances and reassurances to Mr. Sibley and me that they could be trusted with my story — for the almost two months they researched 2002 to 2006 — fell flat on May 4, when the much hyped, sweep’s week 20/20 broadcast failed to deliver even one revelation; this despite, a major ad campaign blitz on the part of the network to the contrary. Both Mr. Sibley and I can attest to the fact — having been an integral part of the 7 1/2 week vetting process — that there were and are noteworthy names to be named, in the four years. Why ABC chose to jump ship seemingly at the eleventh hour would be pure speculation, here. The bottom line is that they did and by doing so, they did a tremendous disservice to the American people.. .
WAYNE MADSEN REPORT MAY 2007 – The corporate media still does not get it about the so-called “Washington Madam” case. Beyond just another titillating DC sex scandal, this affair involves the U.S. Attorneys firings, massive bribery involving military and homeland security contracts, and potential blackmail of high government officials. WMR can report that Disney and ABC executives spiked the Washington Madam story at the very last . . . The decision by Disney and ABC to kill the 20/20 story resulted in a shocked news staff at ABC News’ DeSales Street bureau across the street from the Mayflower Hotel, one of the rendezvous points for some Pamela Martin clients. Our sources stated that Ross, Schwartz, Rood, and others at ABC tried their best to get the story out but were overruled by senior executives at ABC in New York and Disney headquarters in Burbank, California who, in turn, were under heavy pressure from the Bush White House.
The Washington Madam case also involves criminal conspiracy and malfeasance within the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service, and Postal Inspection Service. Palfrey’s case file was not opened until June 2004 after she had been in business for over a decade without any pressure from the government. After Baltimore Police Commissioner and later Maryland State Police Superintendent Ed Norris was charged in May 2004 with three criminal counts by US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, the IRS opened a file on Palfrey the following month. It is clear that with Norris, a 20 year veteran of the New York Police Department, facing up to 30 years in prison, he entered into a plea bargain with DiBiagio. In return for his cooperation, which included Norris naming Pamela Martin as one of the recipients of Baltimore Police supplemental accounts money, he got six months in prison and six months home detention. Norris now hosts a radio show in Baltimore.
DiBiagio’s assistant US Attorney Jonathan Luna, who once worked at the Brooklyn District Attorneys’ office when a probe was being conducted of both Norris and his friend, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, was on to Norris’ corruption in Baltimore. Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley appointed Norris as police commissioner but soon became disenchanted with his performance. After his relection as Governor in 2002, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich appointed Norris as Maryland State Police Superintendent. Luna was brutally murdered near the Pennsylvania Turnpike in December 2003.
DC CITY DESK, MAY 2007 The judge in the Jeanne Palfrey case has issued a temporary restraining order on Palfrey and her civil attorney to keep them from releasing more information about her clients to the news media. This strengthens suspicions that the judge and ABC News – which was given Palfrey’s records – may be trying to suppress some of these names, especially since one the names being circulated around town is an extremely high White House official. Basically, the problem is this: if Jean Palfrey committed a crime so did all her clients and they are not entitled to the protection they are being given. In the best of worlds, prostitution would not be a crime but under the circumstances there is only one honest choice in this matter: either drop the case or open the files. Otherwise it is fair to wonder whether there is a cover-up going on of criminal activity by prominent Washingtonians
NEWS 8, DC, MAY 2007 – A lawyer for alleged Washington madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey wants ABC News to disclose the identity of a federal prosecutor identified in a recent news report as a client of Palfrey’s escort service. In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Palfrey’s civil lawyer, Montgomery Blair Sibley, contends that the Justice Department should compel ABC to disclose the prosecutor’s identity and whether he had any role in the Palfrey investigation. .
BALTIMORE EXAMINER, MAY 2007 – A woman accused of running a Washington-area prostitution ring says former University of Maryland professor Brandy Britton worked for her. Britton told The Examiner before her death that she previously worked for an escort service called East Coast Elites, but she never mentioned Deborah Jeane Palfrey or her firm, Pamela Martin & Associates, during a series of interviews with this newspaper. . . Britton committed suicide in January, days before she was scheduled to stand trial on prostitution charges and be evicted from her $600,000 Ellicott City home. She faced up to a year in prison on each count, but Howard County prosecutors said that if convicted, she likely wouldn’t have served any time. Britton’s Howard County police file makes no mention of Palfrey or her escort service. Police said Britton was working alone when arrested in January 2006, and they have not connected her case to Palfrey. . . Although Britton said her clients included “police, lawyers and judges,” her notes don’t appear to include the names of prominent people. They contain many partial names and code names, including notes for appointments with men identified only as “Robert,” “Bernard” and “David.” Next to their names, she sometimes wrote the callers’ purported occupations, such as “Dr.” or “Accountant.” Britton was a former assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She resigned in 1999. . . . “I thought I would hate the job, and I’d just have to do it,” she said. “But I really liked it, and I made some really good friends, and I like men more than I ever did before. It’s a long story, but as a feminist it made me see things differently. They love their families and their kids. They’re good guys that really love their wives.”
ABC NEWS BLOTTER – MAY 2007 Some of the most in-demand women working for the “D.C. Madam” were in their 50s, according to the woman at the center of the scandal. “There was never an age limit. I hired women well into their 50s,” Deborah Jeane Palfrey told ABC News. “They were some of the most popular women on staff.”. . . From career professionals to graduate students, most women who came to Palfrey to work did so because they needed money — to pay off credit card debt, cover school loans or pay tuition fees, according to Palfrey. . . “Many of these girls were a lot of talk and no action — as most people seem to be from time to time,” Palfrey said. Many applicants would initially be very willing, but when they went on their first appointment “they just freeze and they think, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.'”. . . “It was very boring, mostly,” Palfrey told ABC News. “Very ‘Groundhog Day,’ the same thing over and over and over and over, and over. For me, anyway.”. . . For their part, the clients were typically decent to Palfrey’s women, she said. “I had many gals tell me that their boyfriends treated them, oh, just purely awful. And they would go to many of these appointments, and the man would have roses waiting for them. And nobody had ever given them roses before.”. . . “I think I empowered a lot of women. I got a lot of women through graduate school. I think the people that used the service were by and large quite pleased.”
CHANNEL 9 – MAY 2007 – A legal secretary at one of Washington’s most prominent and well-connected law firms, Akin Gump Strauss Houer & Feld LLP, has been suspended after telling her bosses she secretly worked at night for the escort service run by the so-called D.C. Madam, Jeane Palfrey. The woman both serviced clients and, at times, helped to run the business, Palfrey told ABC News in an interview to be broadcast on “20/20” Friday. The firm said it would not make her name public.
According to e-mails the woman sent to Palfrey on her Akin Gump account, she “enjoyed and even missed” the work she did at night for Palfrey, who has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a large scale prostitution ring. “Perhaps not the weekly grind, but was thinking that a day a week would be fun and spa money,” the legal secretary wrote to Palfrey last year, after Palfrey had closed her business and was considering whether to re-open it.
The Akin Gump secretary was described by Palfrey as an “absolutely lovely gal,” who was working as an escort “to go back to school and get her education, to finish her college degree.”
Considered one of the most powerful firms in Washington, Akin Gump partners make up a who’s who of Washington insiders, including Vernon Jordan, former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and co-founder Robert Strauss, an adviser to numerous presidents.
CAROL D. LEONNIG, WASHINGTON POST MAY 2007 – A former client of the woman accused of being the D.C. madam is trying to block his name from being aired on an ABC News program about her escort business and the men who patronized it, saying publicity would amount to witness intimidation, ABC said yesterday. In a letter to ABC, Steven Salky, the man’s attorney, wrote that he has “reason to believe” that his client could be named tomorrow in a “20/20” report about an alleged prostitution ring run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, ABC said. Salky would not identify the man. The client expects to be a prosecution witness in Palfrey’s federal trial on racketeering charges, Salky told ABC. Identifying him would violate a court order barring harassment of potential witnesses, he said. . .
CHANNEL FOUR, DC APRIL 2007 – A woman charged with running a D.C.-area prostitution ring on made good on her threat to identify high-profile clients, naming a military strategist who developed the combat theories known as “shock and awe” as a regular customer in court papers. Harlan K. Ullman, a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was named in court papers filed by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who is acting as her own lawyer. Ullman, in a brief telephone interview, declined comment on the claim. “The allegations are beneath the dignity of a comment,” he said. . . Palfrey said in her motion that Ullman “is only one of dozens of such officials” who will be exposed as she prepares her defense.
HENRY K LEE, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, APRIL 2007 – Palfrey’s business records include 46 pounds of phone bills of some 15,000 clients of her business, Pamela Martin and Associates, Sibley said. Palfrey originally threatened to sell those records to pay for her defense, but a judge barred her from doing so. Authorities said Palfrey’s alleged prostitution ring involved 132 college-educated women and generated more than $2 million.
SMOKING GUN, MARCH 2007 – Federal prosecutors want to gag an indicted former Washington, D.C. madam who has recently threatened to go public with details about her former customers. In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court, investigators are seeking a protective order covering discovery material to be provided to Deborah Palfrey and her lawyers.
Palfrey, 50, was indicted last week on racketeering and money laundering charges stemming from her operation of the Pamela Martin & Associates escort service, which closed last summer after 13 years in business. In their motion, government lawyers claim that some discovery documents contain “personal information” about Palfrey’s former johns and prostitutes that is “sensitive.” . . .
According to the prosecution motion, while Palfrey and her lawyers would be able to use the discovery material to help prepare a defense, they would not be allowed to disclose the documents to anyone else (nor use the material for any other purposes). Palfrey, whose assets were frozen late last year, has recently floated the idea of selling her escort business’s phone records. She has also “made statements that could be considered veiled threats to cause embarrassment to former customers and employees,” according to the motion. . . .
Before closing her business, Palfrey operated a web site touting Pamela Martin & Associates as “the best adult agency around,” claiming that it had an “ongoing repeat clientele rate of 65-75%.” Palfrey’s site also advertised for escorts. Prospective hookers, she noted, had to be at least 23 years old with two or more years of college. And her $275-an-appointment employees had to be “weight proportionate to height.”