Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, apologized last night for “a very serious sin in my past” after his telephone number appeared among those associated with an escort service operated by Deborah Jean Palfrey, the “D.C. Madam.”

Mr. Vitter’s spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement in an e-mail sent to the Associated Press.

“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Mr. Vitter said in the statement. “Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling.”

Mr. Vitter declined to elaborate.

“Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there — with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way,” he said.

The statement containing Mr. Vitter’s apology said his telephone number was on old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates before he ran for the Senate.

Miss Palfrey was accused in federal court of racketeering by running a prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993. She contends, however, that her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, was a legitimate business.

Mr. Vitter, 46, was elected to the Senate in 2004. He represented Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District in the House from 1999 to 2004.

He and his wife, Wendy, live in Metairie, La., with their four children.

Miss Palfrey’s attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, told AP, “I’m stunned that someone would be apologizing for this already.”

He said Miss Palfrey posted the names of her escort service’s clients online yesterday, but he did not know whether Mr. Vitter’s name was among them.

The Vitter statement was sent to AP’s New Orleans bureau yesterday evening. As of late last night, AP has been unable to connect to Miss Palfrey’s Web site.

Earlier this year Miss Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., asked the Supreme Court to delay the criminal case against her — a request the court denied in May. Her attorney had argued that it was unfair to proceed against Miss Palfrey because her assets remain seized in a civil forfeiture case, meaning she lacks the money to hire a lawyer of her choice.

Randall Tobias, a senior official in the State Department, resigned in April after ABC News confronted him about his use of the escort service. He admitted that he had hired women to come to his Washington condo and give him massages, but denied that he had sex with the escorts.

Miss Palfrey threatened for months to release her client list, which led prosecutors to accuse her of trying to intimidate potential witnesses.

Prosecutors contend that Miss Palfrey knew the 130 women she employed over 13 years were engaged in prostitution. She claims that she operated a “legal, high-end erotic fantasy service” and that the women signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients. The service charged a flat rate of $275 for 90 minutes, she said. She pleaded guilty to pimping charges in 1991 and was sentenced to 18 months in a California prison.

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