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Thursday, July 18, 2024

No bombshells in DC Madam interview

No new high-profile names were dropped in a TV interview with a woman accused of running a Washington-area prostitution ring.


No new high-profile names were dropped in a TV interview with a woman accused of running a Washington-area prostitution ring.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey revealed the details of what she contends was a legal escort service on Friday’s edition of the ABC newsmagazine "20/20," but the broadcast did not expose the names of any men who Paflrey hopes will testify that they did not have sex with the escorts.

Palfrey supplied the network with 46 pounds of phone records from Pamela Martin and Associates. But they could not be linked to any members of Congress or White House officials, ABC reported. The network said the records were traced to prominent business executives, NASA officials, at least five military officers but did not name them.

Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., is charged in federal court with racketeering and money laundering associated with prostitution.

Prosecutors say Palfrey knew the 130 women she employed over 13 years engaged in prostitution. But she contends that she ran a "legal, high-end erotic fantasy service" and that the women who worked for her signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients.

Palfrey did identify one of her escorts, a former university professor who committed suicide after being charged with prostitution.

Though she has pleaded guilty to pimping charges in 1991 and was sentenced to 18 months in a California prison, Palfrey maintains her Washington business was legitimate.

"I was selling fantasy sex," Palfrey said. "We’re not talking about selling their bodies. We’re talking about selling services."

The Washington escort service carried out its business undetected at some of the city’s most exclusive hotels, she said.

"These were not cheap women. These were very nice women who just needed to make a few extra dollars," Palfrey said.

The service charged a flat rate of $275 for 90 minutes, she said.

The most prominent client of Palfrey’s business was senior State Department official Randall Tobias, who resigned from his post last week after ABC confronted him about his use of the service.

Tobias previously directed international AIDS relief programs for the Bush administration that promote abstinence and require grant recipients to sign a pledge opposing prostitution.

"Abstinence works, being faithful works, condoms work," he said on a video ABC aired from a 2004 AIDS conference.

ABC said Tobias acknowledged that he "had some gals over to the condo for massages" but denied having sex with the escorts. The Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis said Thursday he canceled plans to give a May 13 commencement speech.

In court papers filed last month, Palfrey named Harlan Ullman, known as an author of the "shock and awe" combat strategy, as a regular customer. Ullman’s attorney, Marc Mukasey, said Friday that Palfrey should not assume that Ullman will give helpful testimony on her behalf. He declined to elaborate.

One of the biggest revelations from the show was that 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.

"She wasn’t making enough money, so she decided to do a little moonlighting," Palfrey said of Britton. "She was publicly outed… She couldn’t take the humiliation."

Howard County, Md., police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said earlier Friday that Britton was working alone when she was arrested and that investigators had not connected her case to Palfrey.

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."

On Thursday, a lawyer for Palfrey said an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy was one of the service’s escorts, and ABC reported that a secretary at a prominent law firm was another escort. Neither woman was identified.


Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat in McLean, Va., and Ben Nuckols in Baltimore contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

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