- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008


A federal jury yesterday convicted the woman known as the “D.C. Madam” of running a high-end prostitution ring whose clients included members of Washington’s political elite.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 52, sighed as the verdict was read. She had denied repeatedly that the escort service was involved in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.

Miss Palfrey caused a sensation last year when she announced that to raise money for her defense, she intended to sell her phone records to any news outlet willing to pay. Miss Palfrey said her defunct business, Pamela Martin & Associates, was “a legal, high-end erotic fantasy service” catering to clients “from the more refined walks of life here in the nation’s capital.”

She was convicted on all counts she faced: money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering.

The weeklong trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia included the testimony of 13 former escorts, most of whom said Miss Palfrey was careful not to talk explicitly about prostitution. But the women said they often discussed the subject with Miss Palfrey in veiled terms.

Three of Miss Palfrey’s clients also testified, explaining how they found the service, how often they called, what they were seeking and whether they got it during their visits.

“When a man agrees to pay $250 for 90 minutes with a woman, what do most men expect in that time?” prosecutor Daniel Butler said during closing arguments Monday. “In that context, it’s pretty clear. Most men want sex.”

Defense attorney Preston Burton argued that what happened during the appointments was between the client and the escort. He compared Miss Palfrey to a taxi dispatcher, who shouldn’t be penalized for “the route the cabdriver took.”

The trial concluded without the testimony of two prominent men linked to the case: Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, who has publicly apologized to constituents for what he called a “very serious sin,” and Randall L. Tobias, who resigned as a deputy secretary of state after acknowledging to ABC News that he used Miss Palfrey’s service for massages.

Miss Palfrey, who faces a maximum of 55 years in prison, will remain free pending her sentencing July 24.

Prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge James Robertson to detain Miss Palfrey immediately, arguing that the verdict gives her a motive to flee. But the judge noted that Miss Palfrey has never missed a court appearance.

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