So Sorry About the Names, Alleged Madam Says

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, leaving court, will get a new public defender after she said
Deborah Jeane Palfrey, leaving court, will get a new public defender after she said "irreconcilable differences" caused a split with the first appointment. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

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By Carol D. Leonnig and Sue Anne Pressley Montes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The alleged D.C. madam is in desperate need of defense witnesses.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey told reporters that she is "genuinely sorry" if people are hurt when identified as clients of her elite escort service -- but she has no choice but to call them to prove that her escorts provided only the fantasy of sex. Not the real thing, which would be illegal.

Of the deputy secretary of state who resigned Friday after being confronted by an ABC reporter asking why his private cellphone number was on Palfrey's phone list, Palfrey could only sympathize: "I unfortunately know firsthand the implication such a revelation can have upon one's life."

She also knows the town is edgily awaiting the next name to be dropped, in a verbal Dance of the Seven Veils. According to ABC's Web site, Palfrey's potential witness list includes "a Bush administration economist, the head of a conservative think tank, a prominent CEO, several lobbyists, and a handful of military officials."

But forget them for the moment, Palfrey suggested yesterday; instead, she urged reporters to help expose why prosecutors are unfairly hounding her.

"Put aside the titillation of the who's-who list -- at least in part -- and instead investigate the disturbing genesis, the confounding evolution and the equally alarming continuation of this matter," she said. "I believe there is something very rotten at the core of my circumstance."

The government is armed with its own witnesses.

Among them are several women prepared to testify that they were prostitutes who worked for Palfrey's firm, Pamela Martin & Associates. There also are men who, though they would prefer she plead guilty and leave their names out of it, will testify that they paid for sex with women working for Palfrey, according to court records and law enforcement sources briefed on the three-year investigation.

Prosecutors also have a paper trail of money transfers and newsletters to buttress their contention that Palfrey knew her Washington area escorts were providing something more concrete than vivid fantasies.

She came to their attention almost inadvertently, sources said. The investigation began with an unsolicited tip to -- who else? -- the Internal Revenue Service from an angry man who said he had discovered that his girlfriend was working as a prostitute for Palfrey.

Then they heard from a woman who said she had answered Palfrey's ad in the City Paper seeking prospective escorts, sources said. To the young woman's surprise, when she went on a date with a client, he wanted to have sex with her. She declined, and soon she heard from Palfrey, who told her the escort service was "not a social network" and the woman should start providing what clients really wanted, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Not that Palfrey wasn't careful. According to records prosecutors filed in the case, a woman who worked for Palfrey was arrested in an Alexandria prostitution sting. That caused great consternation. Soon after the arrest, Palfrey's newsletters included detailed instructions on avoiding arrest. One tip: Have the client undress first.

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