More commentary- pay attention, 007!

More from my lawyer friend:

On the surface the fed’s case against Ms. Palfrey mirrors in many ways another federal prosecution in Louisiana back in the 1990s. The escort service owner, Sylvia Landry, was charged with running an interstate prostitution ring and transporting women, including minors, across state lines to engage in prostitution. Rumor had it that she got caught in the middle of a political corruption investigation of the governor’s office, and the feds hoped to squeeze her into rolling over on some highly placed politicians. She refused to do so, went to trial, was convicted, and received a six year jail sentence. She committed suicide in custody, without ever giving up her client list. The U.S. Attorney (a Clinton appointee), who brought the full weight of the federal government down on her, ended up with egg on his face. Here’s the story:

“Baton Rouge sits in the heart of Cajun country and is also the centre of state politics. Louisiana politicians are notorious for not letting work get in the way of a good time.

In 1992, Sylvia Landry opened three escort services: Dial-a-Date, Cosmopolitan and Charlie’s Angels. As her client list expanded, Landry’s reputation gained her notoriety and attention in the Bayou state. By 1994, she was earning half a million dollars a year in net profits, with her client list rumoured to reach as high up as the Governor’s mansion and perhaps even as far as Washington, DC.

Within two years, Landry’s high-profile business ventures landed her in jail. She was arrested and charged with pandering and enticing women into prostitution, including the transportation of minors over state lines for these purposes. But Sylvia Landry was confident that her high-profile clients would pull the necessary strings to keep her out of jail.

Under pressure from authorities, a few of Landry’s girls testified against her and her antagonistic attitude certainly didn’t help matters. Through it all, Landry refused to turn over her client list. Some in Baton Rouge admired her defiance whilst others pushed for a local ordinance banning escort services. The case seemed to rip the city down the middle.

Landry was convicted on all counts and sentenced to six years in federal prison. She pleaded no contest to the state charges and was sent to serve her sentence in Texas. However, she escaped as soon as she arrived at the federal pen in Bryan, Texas. Three days later, Landry was apprehended less than three miles from the prison.

Whilst waiting for the transfer of Landry to a maximum security facility in Kansas, authorities found the Baton Rouge Madame dead in her jail cell, hanging from a homemade noose fashioned out of a bed sheet and attached to the smoke detector fixture in her cell.

Landry’s death was officially ruled a suicide, but around Baton Rouge, many people thought she had been murdered at the behest of some of her more powerful clients. As none of her employees or her clients were ever prosecuted, many Baton Rouge residents still claim that Sylvia Landry was the only victim in an otherwise victimless crime.”

Commentary on the Palfrey case and some parallels

These come from a community I belong to, and are written by a lawyer (posted with permission):

“As for agencies charged with money laundering, there’s N.Y. Confidential (Jason Itzler/Paul Bergrin), American Beauties (Jenny Paulino), Julie’s (Julie Moya), NY Elites (Elena Trotchenkova et al), Exclusively Yours (Barbara Eileen Tanner), Jeanette Maier…those are just a few.”

This list is interesting. The first three escort agency cases on the list were prosecuted under state law by the Manhatten District Attorney’s office. The third case, NY Elites, was a federal case investigated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, targeting immigrants and potential trafficking. I found a news article, in which the feds admitted this case was unique for them:

” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said in court records this was their first-ever case under the law barring interstate prostitution that does not involve trafficking, the mob or tax evasion. But they denied it was a case of selective prosecution.”

The last two on the list were also federal. Exclusively Yours was a Virginia case, but my brief search didn’t turn up much about it. The last case you listed, Janette Maier, brought back some old memories. That was the case of the New Orleans madam who, along with her mother, ran a brothel in a residential neighborhood. It was shut down in the early 2000s when the FBI raided the place. The feds tried to make a serious racketeering and money laundering case, but they failed miserably. At the end of the day, Ms. Maier pleaded guilty to one minor count of money laundering, involving a $695 rent check. The federal judge, Ivan Lemelle, was plainly less than pleased with the government’s choices on how best to allocate their resources, particularly after 9/11. This is from a news account describing the sentencing:

“Then it is the judge’s big moment. He speaks slowly, seeming to choose his words with care. He mentions that these charges should have been brought in local courts, but were not. He also mentions that no charges have been brought against those johns ‘who have kept this business active.’
The sentence comes out like this: Jeanette Maier will report on May 19 to a VOA halfway house for a six-month sentence and pay a $10,000 fine, interest waived. In 49 minutes, the People of the United States are finished with Jeanette Maier. Or at least those people who matter in these matters. … “

Even more interesting is the debate that the case, and Ms. Maier’s secret list of well connected clients, spawned in New Orleans. The press came down hard on the feds for waisting their resources, particularly after the U.S. Attorney said that federal laws didn’t permit prosecution of the johns. Many local politicians and people in the legal community began seriously debating whether prostitution should be legalized and whether it made sense to put the women behind bars and not touch the well healed, well connected clients.

This is an excerpt from another local news account of the case:

“A mere seven months after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, armed with evidence from months of court approved telephone wire taps, a team of FBI agents answered the tourists question by storming a two-story Victorian house on the 4300 block of Canal Street, just up the road from the French Quarter in Mid-City.

They busted Jeanette Maier, 43, and her mother, Tommie Taylor, 62, for conspiracy to run a prostitution ring operating across state lines. In the raid, they seized the booking and billing records containing the names of hundreds of clients, some of them prominent and married.

Both women admitted running a high-priced brothel using prostitutes who worked for $200 to $300 an hour using women who traveled a national prostitution circuit from New York to Boston, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. And they both agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, even if that meant naming names, according to attorney Vinny Mosca, who represents Ms. Maier and Ms. Taylor.

“My clients have an agreement with the government to cooperate,” Mr. Mosca said. “If agents of the government debrief them, they will give truthful answers to any questions asked.”

According to telephone wiretap record summaries, the names that could come out if there is a trial in the future include cops, at least one judge, a telecommunications mogul, a former head of the prestigious Mardi Gras society Rex, a partner in a prominent law firm, a member of one of the city’s leading restaurant families, an executive with a large chemical company, bankers, stockbrokers, oil-field workers and a former professional football star.

The FBI got the green light to investigate goings on in the two-story, white-columned Victorian house by claiming a link to drug dealing and organized crime. Up to 10 agents worked on the case.

Apparently not enough evidence turned up to make a major racketeering case, however, so the federal indictments only included one minor marijuana charge against Loretta Mims, a 62-year-old New Orleans woman, who pleaded guilty May 8.

Ms. Taylor pleaded guilty to one minor count of money laundering, admitting she used profits from prostitution to write a $695 rent check. Prosecutors dropped five counts of money laundering and a marijuana conspiracy charge against the women in a plea bargain agreement, in exchange for their cooperation.

The prospect of the names coming out has some of the well-heeled in town a bit worried. Not all of the defendants have entered guilty pleas — including some of the 10 suspected prostitutes in other cities — which is why a trial is still a possibility in August. The booking and billing information could then be used as evidence and become part of the public trial record.

Sentencing for Ms. Maier, the madam, and Ms. Tayler, who helped run the business, is scheduled for August 28.

The case presents a puzzle for the local legal community, especially since acting U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said that there is no federal statute dealing with the customers when he announced the indictment in April.

“It demonstrates the lack of priorities on the part of the FBI and the Justice Department,” Arthur A. “Buddy” Lemann III, one of the most experienced of the city’s criminal defense lawyers, said in an interview. “It’s a waste of time and money to spend all these federal resources to investigate a couple of ladies of the night. To make a federal offense out of it is like using an elephant gun to kill a fly.”

They say prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, but suicide bombers are the newest national security threat and the top priority of the Bush administration. So some people, even in Washington, D.C., wonder what the FBI was doing investigating a brothel with so many agents for so many months prior to and since Sept. 11.

“If the FBI can spend resources investigating whether there is prostitution in New Orleans, they ought to be able to find the resources to investigate what happened in this country prior to 9/11,” Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said in a news conference last week.

The issue made the national television talk shows, and even James Gill, a columnist with the Times-Picayune newspaper here, took the FBI and Justice Department to task.

“The feds might have failed to anticipate the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and ignored anti-American tirades from Arabs enrolled in our flight schools, but a handful of prostitutes would be relentlessly pursued,” Mr. Gill wrote.

Ken Kaiser, special agent in charge of the New Orleans FBI office, said the backlash is frustrating. The brothel investigation was a good one, he told the Times-Picayune newspaper, and is an example of the FBI doing its job of being a domestic watchdog.

“To say this was a tremendous waste of FBI resources,” I deny it,” he said.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick turned down an invitation in the form of a letter from Mr. Letten to review evidence in the case for a possible state prosecution.

“This is their case, and I don’t know why they would want to give it to us,” Connick told the Times-Picayune. “They spent so much time and money on it already. They could certainly include the customers as principals.”

Mr. Letten maintains there is no federal statute to deal with “johns,” and that any prosecution of customers would have to be pursued in state court.

Mr Lemann said the case is like a hot political potato Mr. Connick declined to catch. He said there is no guarantee the list of clients, in the form of booking and billing records seized from the Canal Street brothel by the FBI, will ever come out.

Local sentiment is there are too many rich and powerful people named in the records for the list to ever be made public.

“I don’t think the list will ever come out,” said real estate developer Bobbie Monroe, an Old Absinthe House regular on Fridays.

Some think the case should open a debate about an issue that has lingered just beneath the surface of propriety here since cops ran prostitution out of the red light district on Bourbon Street in the 1950s and ’60s: Should prostitution be legalized? “

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Should Police Ignore High-End Prostitution?

Stacey Swimme quoted in:

Should Police Ignore High-End Prostitution?

May 07, 2007 3:00 PM

Justin Rood Reports:

Should_police_i_mn As the D.C. Madam scandal continues to unfold, some are calling for an end to prosecutions of discreet, higher-end prostitution operations — the very kind alleged by federal prosecutors in the case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

“We should have nonenforcement against ‘indoor’ prostitution,” said Ron Weitzer, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and an expert on criminology and the sex industry. Weitzer defined the term “indoor” prostitution as including escort services, “massage parlors” and independent operators, as long as the women involved are not victims of human trafficking.

Palfrey maintains she did not run a prostitution ring but a legal “sexual fantasy service,” in which she charged $300 for women to spend 90 minutes with male clients, to whom they provided “sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior” but which did not include oral sex or intercourse.

In Weitzer’s view, such operators work in hotel rooms, private homes or on the premises of their own business and do not generate the community issues that arise from prostitutes who walk streets looking for business. And the women, he says, are much less likely to be victims of violence or exploitation.

Weitzer acknowledges his is “not the most popular” view, although he believes it has been quietly embraced by law enforcement officials around the United States. According to Weitzer, some police departments currently prosecute prostitutes and johns involved in street prostitution but ignore discreet “indoor” services despite laws banning their operation.  But Weitzer said the departments will not publicize their policies, fearing it might attract more of such businesses as well as spark a public outcry.

Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

Other experts disagree with Weitzer. Melissa Farley of the anti-prostitution group Prostitution Research & Education believes that men caught soliciting prostitutes should be subject to harsher penalties, and that prostitution itself should be a felony offense. 

“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” Farley told ABC News.  Even discreet “professional” outfits are dangerous and harmful to the women who they employ, according to her.

“Escort prostitution is really cell phone prostitution…if prostitution takes place in an expensive hotel or an expensive home, people think it is vastly different from prostitution that takes place in the back seat of a car. In fact, for the person who’s in prostitution, it’s pretty much the same,” she said.

Farley said that regardless of venue, prostitutes are subject to psychological exploitation, sexual harassment, verbal abuse and the possibility of rape and extreme violence.

Others say Weitzer’s proposal doesn’t go far enough. “The act of exchanging sex for money, that should not be illegal,” said Stacey Swimme of the California-based Sex Workers’ Outreach Project, which advocates for the legalization of prostitution.

Other laws, including those against pedophilia and human trafficking, can protect women, children and the public, Swimme argues, without making prostitution itself a crime.

Once prostitution is legalized, her group reasons, sex workers can finally obtain the occupational health and safety rights that other employees have.

Statistics show, that regardless of current laws and enforcement policies, buying sex is still popular: nearly 13 percent of American men say they have exchanged money for sex at some point in their adult lives, according to a 2004 survey.  By comparison, 1.2 percent of women answered yes to the question, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, which conducted the study.

Dana Hughes contributed to this report.

Police Officer, CSI, SWAT Member Gets Year in Federal Prison for Brothel Exploitation

This is true exploitation:

A former Sunnyvale police officer was sentenced today to a year and a day in federal prison for helping two brothels avoid police raids, find fleeing prostitutes and collect tens of thousands of dollars in bogus immigration fees from employees who were illegal immigrants.

David Lee Miller Jr., 43, a former crime scene investigator, defensive tactics instructor and longtime SWAT team member with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, pleaded guilty in January 2005 to two counts of conspiracy to commit extortion.

At a hearing today in San Jose, when U.S. District Judge James Ware asked Miller whether he had anything to say, he said in a barely audible voice, “I think I’ll be sick if I talk.” Miller declined comment afterward. Miller was arrested as part of a scheme to smuggle women from Korea to the United States, charge them tens of thousands of dollars for the trip and then force them to work as prostitutes at the two South Bay brothels until the debt was repaid.

It’s obvious that with the current laws on prostitution and trafficking as they stand, law enforcement have the power to run our businesses — whether it’s “above the law” and they are putting us under surveillance, harassing us, and raiding us, or outside the law, as in this case, with law enforcement directly profiting from extortion and bribery.

It begs the question: even when police are charged with “protecting and serving” sex workers, they are in turn profiting off of our criminalization.

It’s no surprise that those most embedded in the system of controlling sex workers’ livelihoods — not pimps, but police — also take deep advantage of the power they have been given.

It’s about time more men joined in!

Fabulous site! Check out the guys here:

Papau

Not Worth Mentioning

What a surprise! ABC announced that the men of Ms. Palfrey’s black book are not worth mentioning. If this is not a big deal, then why do they keep arresting the women? Women are definitely to blame, enticing these poor innocent men into committing acts of prostitution. Men would never think of offering money to a women for a sex act. It is the women who thought this up.

The women who are sold to the highest bidder for marriage. Women who are traded by their parents for money. Women who are raped if they say no. Women who are paid less for their labor because of their gender.

Where do all these prostitutes get off? Didn’t they know that women don’t have sex drives? The men can’t help it, they were born horny. Women are for breeding.

When Ms. Palfrey writes her memoirs I am sure she will mention a few names not worth mentioning. Then we will be able to tell by the book sales just how much worth is in a name.

Alleged Madam Gets New Lawyer

From the Blog of Legal Times:

Deborah Jeane Palfrey was taking a chance by ditching the head of the Federal Public Defender’s office in favor of a court appointment from the private bar. But Judge Gladys Kessler has hooked her up with someone familiar with high-profile cases.

Preston Burton, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, was appointed to Palfrey’s case today. Burton is best known for his work on the defense team representing Monica Lewinsky in her dealings with Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

So Burton is good at making the government work for its conviction. But how will he deal with a client whose civil lawyer has tried to become intimately involved in the criminal case? Could prove interesting.