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.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey Found Guilty, But of What?

Deborah Jeane Palfrey

Today a federal jury found accused “DC Madam,” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, guilty not of prostitution, pimping or pandering, but of racketeering, money laundering, and two counts of using the mail for illegal purposes. The AP and others have spun this as Palfrey being found guilty of running an escort service, which, I don’t know — am I splitting hairs here with the dulled rage of someone who’s been following this story for a year?

Palfrey is free pending sentencing on July 24. Maybe we can invite her to host a part of the Desiree Alliance conference before she heads back to court?

Did the DC Madam get DC residents to rethink prostitution?

Palfrey Gets No Breaks

Now Palfrey cannot use the information from the phone records she gave to ABC to research. And after firing her third lawyer, the judge said she can just represent herself. A couple months ago, Vitter was excluded from his subpeona (sorry I’m too lazy to dig up a link for that right now).

They’re determined to send her to prison and punish her for something. Yet there are much worse crimes in Washington at a much higher level of government. Reading this today just saddened me.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey On Law Enforcement & Sex Workers

Susie Bright did a very comprehensive & gutsy interview with Palfrey, and its transcript yields this fantastic bit on the police & misogyny:

These cops — the vice cops, you know, the lowest on the food chain at the police department — they love to go after defenseless women. You know, it’s, it’s… It is something that I want to explore when this is all over — when my actual civil/criminal case is all over. I am even talking to some folks right now about putting together a documentary on what the police have done, do, and will continue to do to defenseless women in this country involved in the sex industry.

The very first person who emailed me when this all broke was a woman. And the subject header was: “My mother is an ex-madam.” She went on to explain who she was, and the terror that she, her mother, and her family experienced at the hands of the police. This particular email was followed up by many many others, all having their own little monikers. Some were very well-known madams who have stories to tell that will make your blood curdle.

One of those emails was mine. I’m sure some of them were yours, too. Anyone care to share? Or muse on what may have been in those many complaints against the cops?

Deborah Jeane Palfrey News from September 2007

Let’s put The Man on the stand

September 16, 2007

The alleged D.C. Madam is trying to turn this legal trick: putting Tom DiBiagio on the stand. Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s lawyer said he is seeking to subpoena the former U.S. attorney for Maryland.

Palfrey Attempting to Reach Plea Deal

September 26, 2007

WTOP Radio reports that alleged D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey is attempting to reach a plea deal in her criminal case “to end this nightmare for everyone.”

Did Cindy Adams’s Dogs Eat Her Notes?

09/27/07

Cindy Adams has made plenty of people squirm with her long-running New York Post column. But now the 76-year-old gossip maven is in sheer panic mode over a federal subpoena involving a controversial item she penned about “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

Palfrey: I Want a New Judge

September 28, 2007

A new lawyer would be nice, but now alleged D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey wants a new judge and new prosecutors, too. They’re the latest oh-my! motions in her case — and only slightly less madcap than her civil attorney’s announcement two weeks ago that Palfrey wished to subpoena an ABC News reporter and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to prove she is victim of political persecution. (Cue the headshaking and sighing.)

Alleged D.C. Madam Wants to Subpoena Reporter, Senator

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 12, 2007; 5:36 PM

The alleged D.C. Madam said she wants to subpoena ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) in hopes of showing she’s the victim of a political prosecution.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who faces charges of conspiracy in running an illegal prostitution ring in the D.C. area for 13 years, claims that her escort service provided legal, albeit sexually explicit, fantasies rather than sex. Ross’s news program was the first to review and report on phone records, which Palfrey provided, listing the numbers of escorts and clients she called over a four-year period.

As ABC News researched the phone calls, an assistant secretary of state resigned and disclosed that he had been a customer of Palfrey’s escort service. But Ross’s subsequent news program did not disclose names of high-profile customers, as Palfrey had pledged would happen.

Palfrey’s civil attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, wrote to reporters yesterday that he plans to seek Ross’s testimony because “the very real specter exists that political pressure was placed on ABC News to ‘bury’ ” names of prominent individuals it found among her phone records.

Sibley said Leahy, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will be able to attest to Bush administration Justice Department officials’ political interference in cases.

A spokesman for Leahy’s office dismissed Palfrey’s proposal as among the more wacky requests the senator’s office has received.

Ross rejected Palfrey’s suggestion that politicians censored or shaped his news reporting. “Our decisions regarding what we reported were based solely on what we considered to be newsworthy,” Ross said in statements posted on ABC’s Web site.