DC Madam Deborah Jean Palfrey Commits Suicide

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. – A woman believed to be the one convicted of running a high-end prostitution ring in Washington was found dead Thursday of an apparent suicide, police said.

A body police believe to be 52-year-old Deborah Jeane Palfrey was found in a shed near her mother’s mobile home Thursday morning in Tarpon Springs, about 20 miles northwest of Tampa. Police said in a statement that she left a suicide note, but they did not disclose its contents or how she killed herself.

Police did not immediately have additional comment when reached by telephone. Her attorney, Preston Burton, did not return a telephone call and e-mail message.

Palfrey, known as the “D.C. Madam,” was convicted April 15 by a federal jury of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington’s political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, R-La. She had denied her escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.

She was convicted of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering.

But the trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses, but did not take the stand.

Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.

Prosecutors said Palfrey operated the prostitution service for 13 years.

Vitter, a first-term senator who is married and has four children, has acknowledged being involved with Palfrey’s escort service and has apologized for what he called a “very serious sin.” But he avoided commenting further.

Besides Vitter, the trial also concluded without the testimony of military strategist Harlan Ullman or Randall Tobias, a former senior State Department official. Both men had been named among possible witnesses.

One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.

Last year, Palfrey said she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: “I guess I’m made of something that Brandy Britton wasn’t made of.”

This story at msnbc.com

AP alert here, and more at Fox, USA Today.

Update: AP story in full.

53 Responses

  1. I was just coming by to let you guys know about this. So sad, and wholly unnecessary.

  2. Is this the only way the civilian world thinks it can solve the “problem” of prostitution? Wait for us all to be killed by others or our own hands?

    Does the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers count victims of suicide due to harrassment and arrest? Palfrey is not the first and won’t be the last.

    XX

  3. [...] This is an aside titled ‘Deborah Jeane Palfrey RIP’ dated 5/1/08 “Most people think that civil assets forfeiture only happens in drug related cases [and that] it’s only after the person has been convicted that they can take the property. Oh no, they take it right up front. They froze all of my assets on October 4 of last year. They stripped me bare.” – Deborah Jeane Palfrey in an interview with $pread. Let’s hope the sad news of her death brings attention to this outrageously unnecessary federal intervention. More on Bound, Not Gagged [...]

  4. [...] Via Melissa on Twitter, I just found out that Deborah Jeane Palfrey (a.k.a. the “DC Madam”) has committed suicide. [...]

  5. Oh my fucking God. Delia just came in here and told me about this then I saw Melissa’s tweets. This is so fucked up.

  6. this makes me very,very sad.

  7. Stupidly, the first thing I did was check my email assuming the Washington Post had sent a breaking news story alert. Of course they didn’t! What was I thinking? They reserve that for important stuff, like Redskins updates.

  8. To echo Amanda, if we aren’t memoralizing such sex workers, we ought to be. I hope this turns out untrue, but I doubt it will. My heart goes out to Deborah Jean Palfrey and those close to her, as well as any sex worker who has committed suicide or considered it.

  9. I live here and there’s been NOTHING about it on the news that I’ve seen.

  10. Another needless victim of sex-hate and the War On Sex.

    And worst of all…the right-wing hypocrites who used her services will get off scot-free, and continue to impose their hatred of sex on the rest of us.

    But who cares….she’s just another “whore” who got her just deserts, they’ll say.

    Nice fucked up society we have. Really.

    Anthony

  11. What is up w/ them ending w/ that line about Brandy Britton??

    I am so sad and upset right now.

  12. I was actually thinking she was going to commit suicide a few days ago. So sad and stupid how they demonize certain people.

  13. This is so sad…just really awful. I wish she would’ve stuck around and fought more, but maybe she felt she had no other options in life.

  14. It doesn’t make any sense — especially with what she said about Brandy Britton. I desperately wanted to have her come to Chicago. I feel like I should have known to invite her out sooner to meet with us if she wanted, to ask her how we could lobby for her sentence to be reduced, to do anything we could for her.

  15. I can’t believe she was hounded to suicide. Yet another reason why the assholes in government need to be thrown out, then thrown under a truck for good measure!

    This is too fucked up.

  16. I wonder if it really was suicide.

  17. i don’t think it was suicide based on these articles, but maybe more info will be provided in the coming days and weeks.

  18. swoplv, on May 1st, 2008 at 12:16 pm Said:

    I wonder if it really was suicide

    I was wondering the same thing. Was it still the general thinking that she had more names that should could drop if things got worse for her? I havent really been following the story lately, so I am not sure.
    Also, wasnt the other suicide kind of shady and questionable too? I dont remember the details, but I remember some speculation when it happened.

  19. I am reminded that Brandi Britton told me that if she wound up dead, it wouldn’t be suicide, and that she received threats and was being followed by the -powers-that-be…the cops, etc.

  20. it’s the lead off story on our local NBC 4 pm news…apparently, she left notesm her mother was totally surprised, the investigation is on going.

  21. [...] usual, Bound, Not Gagged has much more as the story develops…and see also Ren Ev (who’s been on freakin’ FIRE of [...]

  22. I am not prone to any sort of paranoid conspiracy theory-type thinking, but I really, really do have to question that this was a suicide. There were many, many more powerful names on her list, and they had the means to silence her.

    I am so sick and tired of men sitting pretty, and women being punished. It is so fucking wrong.

  23. Really a sad story…i feel for her mother. i say live and let live. If someone wants to prostitute, let them. if they want to be a Madame, let them.

    Frankly, there are more news worthy things going on the world. I hate it about her death, but why exploit it.

  24. My hunch is that ‘they’ straight killed her. I just listened to a couple of interviews with Alex Jones and she stated that she would not commit suicide. (Ironically a Times article says she would do it)

    Alex Jones interview last year

    [audio src="http://www.infowars.com/media/230707palfrey.mp3" /]

    Thursday 3-13-08 – Alex welcomes the D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, to discuss Eliot Spitzer, and Aubrey de Grey about reversing the age process for the elite.
    http://www.2centsofnonsense.com/March/3-13-08%20Thursday.mp3 (starts on 66 minute mark)

  25. Awful. Either way it’s awful.
    Words fail me.
    In solidarity,
    Elizabeth

  26. I agree with torduange and wonder if Palfrey did actually was suicide. I remember that Brandi Britton, an escort who worked for Palfrey, also allegedly commited suicide. I mean, they both could have commited suicide, but I wonder. I’m not sure whether their deaths were suicides or murders.
    However, I see how the distress of being persecuted and publically ostracized, which both Palfrey and and Britton were subject to, could lead to suicide.

  27. For once, Gawker Media had the decency to nix the snarkiness:

    http://wonkette.com/386335/deborah-jeane-palfrey-to-be-remembered-on-moon

    Thank you Gawker!

  28. I just saw the news…actually had to go to the bathroom here at work it’s that upsetting. :(

  29. Why the rush to call this a suicide? There’re a lot of powerful and inscrutable people out there who will be relieved she is dead.

  30. I am deeply saddened at this loss, as are we all, angry at a system that destroys people for nothing, and afflicted by a feeling that we failed her, because we did not have the means to fight this injustice. Will this senseless destruction of people’s lives never stop?

    Amanda, thank you for those words. Debra Jeane, our hearts go out to you and may you give us strength to keep on fighting for you and others like you.

  31. If that was “love” that Gawker showed (at least from what I read of the comments), then I’d hate to see what they would say for those they really hated.

    Anthony

  32. Let’s hope that this doesn’t get buried like the ’94 scandal…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_child_abuse_allegations

    Conspiracy of Silence

  33. Ms. Palfrey said since the ’90s that if she was ever found to have committed suicide, be certain she was murdered.

  34. “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.”

    I feel that the violence that has been done to Deborah Jeane Palfrey has been done to me.

    I feel violated. I’m reminded of my vulnerability and the lack of protection. It’s disquieting. The inherent injustice, bigotry, cruelty and blindness of an ideology that criminalizes sex-workers suffocates me. I don’t understand it.

    Remember the days women weren’t allowed to vote? Or even further back in time when the law was that married women were actual property of their husbands and were not allowed to divorce? I feel like somebody is trying to put me back right back into that place.
    There are laws that tell me I can’t do with my body as I please. Is my body is my property or not? If it isn’t, then who’s property is it?

    It’s a sad day. May Deborah Jeane Palfrey rest in peace.

    For myself, rather than accept fear as the final message to be drawn from this, maybe the answer lies in growing stronger bonds of support.

    Because, whatever you do to the least of my sisters, you do to me.

    Eve
    eveonthebeach[at]yahoo.com

  35. [...] DC Madam Deborah Jean Palfrey Commits Suicide « Bound, Not Gagged “Police were called to the home of DC Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s mother on Thursday to investigate her apparent suicide. Police have confirmed that the dead person is Palfrey who was 52.” OMG. This is awful. (tags: awful sad suicide sexwork death law media) [...]

  36. I bet she was pressured into it. The “powers that be” probably threatened to go after her family, friends, etc. if she didn’t “bow out gracefully.”

  37. Deborah Palfrey’s death is the result of the horrendous effects of criminalization of the sex industry. Essentially she was murdered by awful laws, a railroaded trial in which she had no chance and the tragedy of criminalization of consenting sex sexual exchange between adults. She was a business woman who ran a business. Her death is a horrific example of the effects of criminalization and the moral zealotry that goes with it. It almost leaves me speechless.

  38. Jean Palfrey, Presente!

  39. This sad and tragic event is the inevitable result of the “protect the johns at all costs” philosophy. Deborah tried at first to protect her johns. And even while they were squashing her she thought she was tough – tougher than the system. But the sex industry eats everyone who gets involved in it. The bottom line is that the johns do not care about us, the johns will not protect us and in fact the johns may kill us one day. Or make us so insane we kill ourself. The johns will always circle the wagons and we will always be on the outside. Used and thrown away. This is not work – this is madness. Deborah was really principled and really really angry and really really tough. But that was not enough.

  40. [...] Bound Not Gagged's post about has some good comments that are worth checking out. Amanda Brooks commented "Does the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers count victims of suicide due to harrassment and arrest? Palfrey is not the first and won’t be the last." [...]

  41. I heard it first on my local Time-Warner 24 hours news channel. The story took maybe 30 seconds.

    I was getting ready for office work when I heard it, and needless to say, I was late. I was numb and unable to do much more than sit and stare.

    After the initial shock came waves of anger. Why her? What about the clients? Why would she potentially get 55 years, and they get nothing?

    Prostitution takes at least two parties to be crime. Why do we only punish one?

    It reeks of hatred of women, specifically hatred of women defying social norms, and hatred of sex.

    She would have been a great fighter. I had fantasies that we could get her to come to Chicago.

    I think it’s very valid to question the ruling of suicide and I wonder what information will be released in the coming days.

  42. I just received this audio of Deborah Jeane saying she would never commit suicide:

    [audio src="http://prisonplanet.com/audio/010508palfrey.mp3" /]

    There is also a lot of information up at http://www.infowars.com

    (I don’t have audio at the moment and I’m just passing that link along. Let me know if it doesn’t work for you.)

  43. [...] did Thomas not link to Bound, Not Gagged? Are sex workers not worth linking to? Why did Thomas have that unmistakable tone, yet again, of [...]

  44. Suicide always bothers me, but in this case, it touches me particularly because I understand the shame others can force upon you. How tragic. Why aren’t the man affected the same?

  45. @amanda brooks:

    Dec 17 (International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers webmistress Ana added Brandy Britton and Debra Palfrey… regardless of whether or not it was suicide or foul play, they were victims.

    http://www.swopusa.org/dec17/victims/v_all_2008.html

  46. [...] There’s a community tribte to her at Bound, not Gagged. « 1,000 Words [...]

  47. Yesterday, BnG received the following message:

    James Bryant former host of the JB and Morgan show and now the program director of The World Internet radio network (www.wirnonline.com) had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Jean Palfrey AKA “The DC Madam”

    During the Interview Deborah spoke about her case as well as about her escort business and the events leading up to her arrest and the possible conspiracy leading to her arrest and what could be the possible outcomes of her trial.

    As a media outlet we feel it’s important to continue to cover this story as well as make this interview public to other media outlets as they continue to cover the story as the interview contains important facts and information about her life as well as her case

    The world internet radio network extends our condolences to her friends and family

    Media outlets

    The interview can be located at http://www.wirnonline.com/downloads/Jeane%20Palfrey.mp3

    Right click and “save as” to download

    Please feel free to use sound bites from the interview as you see fit all we ask is you give The World internet radio network (www.wirnonline.com) credit for the audio

    James Bryant is available for interviews as well as other questions about the interview at programdirector@wirnonline.com and by phone at 630-995-9232

  48. This comment relates back to another post by me in this thread. (If this is a complete repeat, forgive and delete.)

    From a friend:

    the dc madam has been taken out by the cia obviously! i listened to her on alex jones weeks ago saying she was going to take down all the high profile clients with her, hinting at cheney too, and on alex’s show she said “i would never commit suicide, if i die, they murdered me” i heard that, they archived it, and they are replaying the clip
    today. today she’s dead and fox news says she committed suicide!

    i thought of you and your activism, can you can think of anything to do to raise some heck around this?

    here’s the audio
    http://prisonplanet. com/audio/010508palfrey. mp3

    at infowars. com they posted several articles including her phone records – the guy Moldea who wrote she would commit suicide, is supposedly a pro “conspiracy” debunker, also on infowars. com

  49. “Suicide?”

    LMAO…

  50. ^ (Just ignore the pre-spin Jewarldo tried to put on it – listen to what she told Alex Jones.)

    Agree with Jessica Land.

    Palfrey should have outed her high-powered johns ASAP – or at least spread it around to secure sources somewhere. Walking around with all that info only in her head only made her a huge target. Buh-bye.

  51. The US Government psychologically tortured Deborah Jeane Palfrey to the point of suicide, (in other words to the point of murder).
    From an international human rights point of view she was totally innocent.
    Why did the US Government do such a thing to her? So they could steal her assets and life savings and claim everything was done legally.
    Deborah worked hard for her money, she was an intelligent, successful and hard working business woman.
    In her 52 years of existence she never hurt one soul, she was a sweet and beautiful person.
    Every single government official involved with her case (or torture) have her blood on their hands. The US government basically murdered her just so they could steal her money.
    Only a very cruel government could do such a thing.
    (Deborah – I as a fellow human being love and respect you with all my heart, I know you were innocent just like Jesus was innocent of all charges brought upon him before he was crucified – God bless your soul).

  52. No suicide folks.
    She was murdered in cold blood, & the election went on w/out interference.
    Write in Dr. Ron Paul, before the shoes of peace & liberty do not become too big for this beloved “Clark Kent”. U are so lucky to have him, & the hope he renews. Please make an effort why don’t U; learn & take advantage of the silver platter he prescribes.
    Spread the message,
    ~Dea, in Fabian/Rhodes Socialist Red Canaduh.

  53. [...] Palfrey (a.k.a. the DC Madam) was found at her mother’s home in Tarpon Springs, Florida, dead from an apparent suicide. I first heard the news on Twitter, from Melissa. As with the Spitzer scandal, Bound, Not Gagged [...]

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