D.C. Madam Explains Strategy for Naming Customers

D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, facing racketeering charges, explains why she gave ABC her client roster and is outing them via the media. She's seeking witnesses. She fully expects her customers, especially the prominent Washingtonians among them, like Randall Tobias who resigned as Deputy Secretary of State last week, to say there was no funny business going on, just legal escort services.

She wants these deniers as defense witnesses, to counter the Government's assertion that her escorts provided sexual services.

Pretty desperate strategy, if you ask me. The clients are hardly going to be willing witnesses. What if they just tell her lawyer, when they get their subpoenas, there was sex involved? Surely, she won't publish their comments since it would be adding to the Government's case against her and hurtful to her defense? Nor would she dare actually put them on the stand.

Just in time for sweeps week, she'll be on 20/20 this Friday. I doubt she'll drop any famous names during the show, though the reporters may.

This is taking sleaze media to the extreme.

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    unjustice and the law, jury nullification (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Tue May 01, 2007 at 08:51:50 AM EST
    if a person reads the comments at the abc blotter,

    you would have to conclude that in fact, yes, at least 1/4 of the posters consider the government's conduct to be wrong, immoral and hypocritical, and its hypocrisy is being exposed by the fact that her customers include the high, mighty and powerful men who now are denying they were customers or that there was sex.

    Now, when you have 1/4 of the posters at the blotter spontaneously asserting vigorously that the law is unjust or being unjustly applied--isn't that just the sort of thing that is liable to cause a jury nullification verdict--even if she were legally guilty?

    And, should she and her lawyer feel it just and right to pursue exactly that?  Shouldn't every unjustly accused defendant use the power of public opinion to help the jury find innocent, if the law is unjust or being unjustly applied?

    Here is a sampling:

    Those officials who participated in this mess should be charged too. What kinda of stupid lopsided so called criminal non-justice system is this?


    Why is prostitution illegal again?


    They are either legitimate witnesses, or should be charged themselves.


    Why are only the women prosecuted and not the men? If they have been cheating on their wives or significant others then that's their problem and they need to be exposed. The law is very unjust when they only go after the woman.

    Looks like.... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue May 01, 2007 at 09:04:54 AM EST
    the feds messed with the wrong lady...she will not go quietly into her cage...I say good for her.

    Maybe if she outs enough federal officials they will drop the charges against her...I'm sure the feds value their careers over a pimping prosecution.

    I don't think it's a sleazy defense, rather (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by scribe on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:02:43 AM EST
    I think it's likely the best defense she's got.

    Nor do I think this is about sleazy media.  To prove my point we only need remember that, during the height of the Clinton impeachment hysteria/coup attempt, Larry Flynt offered a million dollars to anyone who would come to him with dirt on Republicans.  Salon even noted, when Flynt ran for California governor, that Flynt emerged as the most popular person involved in the impeachment circus, and that his investigation helped bring down short-time Speaker Bob Livingston.  More on Flynt from a 10/30/2000 article in another publication:

    ...and last year, he had Washington pols and insiders sweating when he published a dirty laundry list of beltway scandals, peccadilloes and improprieties involving some of the most powerful politicians on capitol hill. Many were GOP stalwarts of the Christian Coalition, who in public preached a stern religious morality that condemned gays, abortion, premarital sex and anything else which strayed from Pat Robertson's list of theologically correct behaviors. In private, though, they turned out to be a pack of fornicators, adulterers and less-than-honorable men -- and women like Rep. Helen Chenoweth.

    The article goes on to talk at some length about Rep. Bob Barr and his messy divorce proceedings.  Then is discusses that Flynt offered funds similarly (and claims to have had information) relative to allegations W was involved in an abortion in Texas back in the 70s.

    Pelfrey went to ABC - the MSM - and they decided in their journalistic discretion to follow the story.  That's probably less sleazy than NBC's running the Va.Tech. shooter's production, last week.

    I guess the point here is manifold:

    (1) Pelfrey's entitled to the best defense she can get.  From a purely lawyerly point of view, yes, this is a crappy defense, but it still can work, and it might be the best she can get.  If she can bring people into court who either consumed services from her business, or provided the services for the business, and they say under oath that "there was no sex involved", well that's the judicial fact and the judicial truth.  Period.  No level of inferences the government can draw (including the "it's total bullsh*t - everyone knows sex was involved" line of argument - which might be not-cognizable, depending on the facts adduced) nor any amount of argument to the contrary (absent someone coming in and saying under oath "yes, we had sex for money") will change the facts presented under oath.

    (2)  The government already knows who's a customer and who's a worker.  Pelfrey got her phone records in discovery from the government.  Do you think for a minute that the government does not know who the people in the phone records are?  Given this administration (and the tendencies of law enforcement generally), does anyone think for a minute that the government would hesitate for a minute to twist some arms of the people on the list, if it suited the government's purposes?  And, given the politicization of DoJ (most recently exemplified by Murray Waas last night) does anyone think for a minute that the juicy names on the list have not already been shared with Rove's shop (or are being held back to be shared in the future, when a favor is really needed)? But, absent video of people getting it on, the case is purely, uh, "he said-she said", and that's one the government can easily lose.

    (3)  There doesn't seem to be enough money involved for this to be sex-for-money.  My sense (from reading around the blogosphere and the net - not being a consumer of such services) is that the rates being charged are not consonant with "high-end" hookers, call girls, or whatever you call them providing sex.  The rates seem more consonant with a massage by a really attractive masseuse.  Moreover, if the allegation that the workers included women in "serious jobs" is true, the cut they'd be getting (who knows how much;  but even if it was half or two-thirds of whatever they earned) would not be worth the risk of wrecking their careers over a single bust.  Security clearances, career development, reputations, plans, etc., for a hundred or two or three a night isn't worth it. I know - the same can be said about dope, but this is more involved than scoring a simple joint or whatever.

    (4) Her "employee-breached-the-contract-if-there-was-sex" defense might work.  Similarly, the "warnings" in Pelfrey's newsletters (which her employees were supposed to keep!) can be read as being warnings to help them against customers importuning the employees for a little more than the law allows.  It makes no sense to keep (and less to tell them to keep) these newsletters if they are not intended to help the employees comply with their contract with their employer - which was to stay strictly legal.  That "employees breached their contract with me" angle is interesting and might work, particularly since Pelfrey was a continent away and could not directly supervise the employees.

    (5)  This story is more about hypocrisy than anything else - and that's where the attention needs to stay focused. That's, IMHO, why ABC selected Tobias for the first name to hit the news.  He was Mr. Abstinence And No Condoms And Take the Anti-Prostitution Oath of Fealty to The Religious Right Running Things.  That he was partaking of escort services while making others kowtow to the Religious Right's positions on matters of sexuality and disease (and then both likened it to ordering in a pizza and noted his present preference for Central American girls) only limned his (and, by reflection the Admin's) hypocrisy more fully.

    (6)  This case grows out of the Admin's desire to criminalize sex;  what better way to get as many people into the system than to criminalize basic human desires.  They didn't have to bring this prosecution - one wonders whether this was either (a) the Religious Right inside the IRS and the DoJ getting on their moral high horse (and winding up with a worse mess than they started with)* or (b) revenge of the career people by pushing the case knowing that, in DC, prominent names would wind up coming out if they got the right, fighting, Martha Mitchell-esque defendant.  They chose carefully and well, it seems.

    No, the sleaze here is on the government's side.

    And, you'll note, I haven't posited any position on the morality or immorality of prostitution - it doesn't involve me so I don't care.

    * Remember, USA Bogden in Vegas got canned over, allegedly, not pushing obscenity prosecutions enough to satisfy the Religious Right and one of the folks who was on Meese's Porn Commission.

    but, if that's (none / 0) (#12)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:18:00 AM EST
     the best defense she has, from a legal and penal standpoint, the best strategy would be to keep the case as quiet as possible and negotiate a plea agreement.

      It may be the "best" defense at trial but that would only mean the government has substantial credible inculpatory evidence against her. Otherwise a better defense would be rebutting the government's evidence and impeaching the credibility of the government's witnesses.

      I suspect she's willing to trade a  worse sentence in the end for what she envisions to be a hefty advance for her book and other media exploitations. Perhaps, she has been told no deal was possible that would let her avoid prison entirely and she decided she can do a few more months  time if it means more money.


    Don't forget that, in addition to trying to put (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by scribe on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:40:45 AM EST
    her in jail the government has also sued for civil forfeiture of all she owns, saying this was all the proceeds of money laundering activity.

    The problem is that in such a situation, not only is she looking at jail time and poverty, but the presumption of innocence does not apply in the forfeiture suit.  The property is presumed to be the proceeds of criminal activity, and she has to prove innocent origin.

    So, even if she were to take a plea, she'd still wind up broke.  And, you can be sure that the government would start another forfeiture action against the book and movie proceeds (doubtless arguing "she wouldn't have a story to tell without the criminality...") were she to get such a deal.  That's also a collateral reason why she gave the records to ABC (remember, she got them to ABC before the gag order was put in place) - if she'd have been paid for them the government would have simply grabbed the money.  And, the MSM knew that, too, so they wouldn't pay.  She did need the assistance of getting the names out from the records, though - that costs some money, and letting the media do that work for her in return for the exclusive was likely the best barter she could make.

    I would not put it past the government to have done a little NSA hanky-panky somewhere in this case.  Maybe they were watching some of the customers' numbers, or maybe some of the workers', but somehow out of all the escort agencies in DC, they picked Palfrey's.  One has to wonder why that is.  Since it appears this was an 800-number (how else would her phone records reflect who was calling her?), this was all strictly domestic calls - 800 numbers do not work for calls from overseas to the US.

    No, if they offered her a plea deal it was one she found easy to refuse because it was too harsh.  They wanted to make an example of her, and it's backfiring in the government's face.


    Source (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by squeaky on Tue May 01, 2007 at 11:19:33 AM EST
    Actually, this is one of those things I think I knew but forget 'til a former contact of one of the defense contractors reminded me today. But just to refresh everyone's memory, the DC Madam apparently came to the Feds attention by way of the Wilkes/Wade investigation. Which implies, her business and theirs crossed paths. "The [Shirlington] limo guys reportedly dished her to the Feds," this contact writes. "Shirlington limousine used to pick up the DC madam girls to entertain the 'boys' at the Watergate etc."

    Laura Rozen


    nice catch, squeaky (none / 0) (#19)
    by scribe on Tue May 01, 2007 at 11:29:04 AM EST
    Revision (none / 0) (#20)
    by squeaky on Tue May 01, 2007 at 05:03:14 PM EST
    The "D.C. madam", Deborah Jeane Palfrey, had once speculated that she came to the attention of the Feds by way of the Wilkes/Wade investigation. Apparently, there's no evidence that's the case, and she was just speculating. We'll apparently know more about the whole story after ABC's "20/20" report on Friday. More here.

    Laura Rozen

    We'll see......


    Boy (none / 0) (#16)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:51:12 AM EST
      you never fail to hit on the most unlikely and farfetched of all possible sscenarios when there is a  simple straightforward one staring you in the face.

    " would not put it past the government to have done a little NSA hanky-panky somewhere in this case.  Maybe they were watching some of the customers' numbers, or maybe some of the workers', but somehow out of all the escort agencies in DC, they picked Palfrey's."

      Yeah the NSA, was snooping on federal officials and when it discovered that some sureveillance targets were patronizing an escort service, it referred it to the D.C. AUSA's office for prosecution -- so a conspiracy to hush it up could be commenced?

      I guess the "feds" are not busy enough concealing stuff already  out there and to keep their conspiring skills sharp they pulled this one out of the hat, so they have more experience when they need to conspire on the really big stuff.

      I'd also point out that writing a book or signing a movie deal is not illegal-- even if the subject is past illegal activity and the proceeds would not be subject to forfeiture. If you were 1/10 as good at the law as you are dreaming up wild tinfoil hat stuff, you'd be a force.



    Decon - how many times have I put what you call (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by scribe on Tue May 01, 2007 at 11:24:25 AM EST
    "tinfoil hat stuff" up, only to see it come through as accurate (or pretty close)?  I've been right far more often than I've been wrong.

    The point is, as follows:
    (1) we know from Palfrey and ABC that some of the women were working in "serious jobs" in government, some were military officers, and some were legal secretaries
    (2) we know that one of the customers was the guy who invented "Shock and awe" and now works at/runs a military-oriented think tank and another was a Deputy Secretary of State
    (3) the people in (1) and (2) would necessarily have security clearances
    (4) the government does do surveillance on people with access to classified information, the extent of it and degree of intrusiveness depending upon the nature of the information, the amount of access, the importance of the job, assets to do surveillance, and so on.
    (5) the government has a history of stripping security clearances from people involved in sexual imbroglios and sexual "misconduct"
    (6) this is a paranoid administration that traces phone traffic (and likely taps selected phones) regardless of the law.  In this instance, they may have even bothered to get a warrant and follow the law (which we would not know about).
    (7) this administration is also in the hands of a bunch of religious fanatics who have as one of their highest priorities putting their noses into (and sometimes criminalizing) the sexual conduct of others.  Note that it appears Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson were the people who would decide which non-civil service employees of the DoJ got to keep their jobs - Goodling is one of the star graduates of Regent U Law, where God comes before the law.  And Sampson, I'd suspect, is not much different from her, in addition to being a mini-Rove lookalike.
    (8) somehow the government came up with Palfrey's escort service out of all the ones in DC - look at a DC (or any major city) yellow pages sometime and try counting them.  Or the back of one of the alternative newspapers - it's ads from escort services which keep them afloat.  
    The point is - why hers?  What led them to hers?  Is the prosecution of her service one of hundreds of similar cases, or one of less-than-10?  (try the low end) Is it too much to surmise (or conclude from 1-7 above) that maybe there was a security or other investigation underway which may (or may not) have yielded any results beyond someone saying to some person in the IRS/Postal inspectors/DoJ "hey, you need to look at Palfrey",  "because she's an easy target and you can score some points busting a prostitution ring"?

    I think not.

    My comment does not require the dots I've connected to be true, but it merely suggests another possible explanation.  

    And, before you reject my comment out of hand (again), keep in mind that in November (or even February), how many people would have believed that not only were at least 8 US Attorneys fired because they displeased a couple of thirtyish puppy lawyers in the DoJ (and their bosses in Rove's shop), but that this was an organized program which had its genesis some years ago?  Not too many.

    Or, for that matter, how many people would have believed the NSA was tapping phone traffic in violation of the law - and that Bushie would ratify it - before Risen wrote his article?

     - Just because it seems improbable, does not make it false.

     - There is no room for a presumption of good faith in favor of this administration and its employees.  Any such presumption will result in the person giving it, getting punked again and again.


    Seems Like (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:20:12 AM EST
    She tried that approach and they called her bluff.

    desertwind (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by desertwind on Tue May 01, 2007 at 06:53:33 PM EST
    It will probably get reduced to tax evasion, don't ya think?

    PS -- If I were ABC, I'd go to town with this stuff. Seriously. We're talking about it, aren't we? Everyone enjoys a good sex scandal, no?

    Basic Fairness (4.00 / 1) (#2)
    by PatentInvestor on Tue May 01, 2007 at 02:02:31 AM EST
    "Pretty desperate strategy, if you ask me."

    But doesn't basic fairness require us to punish BOTH (or NEITHER) parties to a meritricious transaction??  She has a valid point: if she is guilty, so are the 15,000 fat-cat clients.  If society gives them a pass, so should we her.

    Racketeering charges imply that she had the power in the arrangements; but her high-roller clients actually have the power (as is usually the case in even the small single transactions of this typep).

    I see no other obvious means for her to enforce this fairness.  Regulation of legal prostitution might be a useful solution for both parties and society as well but we see so little of that.

    that's right (none / 0) (#5)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Tue May 01, 2007 at 08:35:56 AM EST
    because Americans and members of a jury are going to find it wrong and offensive that she should be prosecuted while people like Tobias either lie about what was happening and say there was no sex, or that there was sex, and there is no prosecution of them.

    Isn't that obvious?


    Now (3.00 / 2) (#3)
    by roger on Tue May 01, 2007 at 06:08:37 AM EST
    I see the problem, Clinton didn't PAY............

    Sleaze Media? Sleaze Prosecution! (none / 0) (#1)
    by Domino on Tue May 01, 2007 at 12:49:02 AM EST
    With all the tactics used in all the media trials back to Simpson, you complain about this?  The Bush administration is prosecuting a victimless crime that is only about their moral hypocrisy.  The more administration officials exposed, the better.

    M.A.D.? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jen M on Tue May 01, 2007 at 06:49:10 AM EST
    Somebody tipped the scales and now everyone is unhappy.

    I'd suggest (none / 0) (#8)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:02:03 AM EST
      making it a cause celebre  is the wrong strategy in terms of dealing with the U.S. Attorney's office. It is now more likely the prosecution  will feel constrained not to do anything which would make it appear its decision-making was influenced by a desire to protect any high profile johns. (such as offering a really favorable plea agreement)

      The "feds" are not a monolith. The assistant AUSA handling the case is unlikely to feel an obligation to protect johns simply because some of them might also get a paycheck from the government, and now he might feel as if he is being challenged. Heels might be dug deeper as a result of this maneuver.

      The selective prosecution argument while it may have some appeal, has a major problem. Soliciting prostitution is not a federal offense. To be within the ambit of federal law, one must:

    § 1952. Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises

    (a) Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses the mail or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent to--

    (1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or

    (2) commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful activity; or

    (3) otherwise promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on, of any unlawful activity,
    and thereafter performs or attempts to perform--

    (A) an act described in paragraph (1) or (3) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both; or
    (B) an act described in paragraph (2) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

    (b) As used in this section (i) "unlawful activity" means

    (1) any business enterprise involving gambling, liquor on which the Federal excise tax has not been paid, narcotics or controlled substances (as defined in section 102(6) of the Controlled Substances Act), or prostitution offenses in violation of the laws of the State in which they are committed or of the United States,

    (2) extortion, bribery, or arson in violation of the laws of the State in which committed or of the United States, or

    (3) any act which is indictable under subchapter II of chapter 53 of title 31, United States Code, or under section 1956 or 1957 of this title and
    (ii) the term "State" includes a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, and any commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States.

    (c) Investigations of violations under this section involving liquor shall be conducted under the supervision of the Attorney General.


    Thus, the "customers" would not be within the reach of this statute.

    Couldn't Agree More (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:09:40 AM EST
    Decon would have a point if the ones who talk the big moral talk were not on her lists. But as experience has taught us the moral majority are most likely to have been her biggest customers.

    Couldn't Agree More with Scribe (none / 0) (#11)
    by squeaky on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:10:33 AM EST
    That is.

    thanks, squeaky! (none / 0) (#15)
    by scribe on Tue May 01, 2007 at 10:41:24 AM EST
    Healthy Revenge?---advance cooperation? (none / 0) (#22)
    by lindalawyer on Wed May 02, 2007 at 07:18:10 AM EST
    Maybe she assumes that at the very least, if she goes down, so does the careers of so many hypocrits who still maintain positions of power while pandereeing to the moral majority.

    Or maybe she assumes that SOMEONE in some high place, (although we have to assume that A.G. was never a client) is going to step in to silence this woman and require the government to negotiate this case.

    I do agree that the US attorneys office cant let the case go away quietly, because it will look as if they acted in response to some inappropriate pressure, but maybe they can claim that due to her extraordinary cooperation she merits a 5K.

    This is not the way (none / 0) (#23)
    by Deconstructionist on Wed May 02, 2007 at 07:47:40 AM EST
     to get a substantial assistance motion. This is the way to either get acquitted or, more likely, face greater punishment than others similarly situated.  

      If she wanted to bargain for the best negotiated outcome, she would listen to her lawyer. To get substantial assistance   and voluntarily provide information about others invilved in either running the escort service or , laundering money, etc.,  or about the money trail to help the government recover assets in private debriefings with the  Assitant U.S. Attorney and case agents.

      Giving records to ABC is not cooperating with authorities. It would appear to be farthest thing from assisting. Moreover, once the media has the information NO ONE will step in and demand a quiet negotiation because any incentive to do so is lost. Giving her a "better deal" now doesn't remove the records she provided from the media and any deal at all, let alone a favorable one will just cause more scrutiny and more suspicion

      Your first idea-- maybe she wants to take some  bastards down with her-- makes the most sense but that will likely come at greater cost to her than if she had acted differently. I suspect she wants money, as she will lose what she has and may not be able to make much at her chosen profession for quite a while, and is willing to endure a somewhat longer sentence than she would otherwise receive.