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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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Now, as the case is moving closer to trial, U.S. v. Palfrey is reaching three-ring status.

Palfrey's attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, said she "never kept a little black book," so she had turned over to ABC 46 pounds of personal phone records, hoping the news organization would mine them for names of clients who patronized Pamela Martin & Associates.

That's why "20/20" reporter Brian Ross called Randall L. Tobias last week at his office in the State Department, where he worked on foreign aid promoting administration policies in favor of abstinence and against prostitution. Tobias told ABC that he had received massages from Palfrey's escorts but not sex. Then he quit his job.

As Washington waits for the next name to be slipped into a dry court filing, or blurted out on national television, exasperated federal prosecutors argue that Palfrey and her attorney are running a media blitz -- using "20/20" to intimidate and coerce men whose careers and reputations could be ruined when the world finds out they were paying $300 an hour for escorts.

Some veteran Washington defense lawyers privately question Palfrey's strategy: Who would willingly appear as a defense witness to help someone who has just made him the brunt of gossip and ruined his career and life?

In her statement, Palfrey said the approach was necessary "since the government has placed me in the untenable position whereby I do not have sufficient monies to undertake this extraordinarily expensive task on my own." The federal government has frozen her assets, including two California houses, and she is now "indigent," she said.

As a client, Palfrey may not be easy. She had been assigned one of the court's most respected defense lawyers, A. J. Kramer. But the two had "irreconcilable differences" over how to best proceed with her defense, she said.

Kramer declined yesterday to comment on their split, but it was clear that Palfrey's and Sibley's propensity to hold news conferences after every court hearing did not mesh with Kramer's style.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler agreed yesterday to appoint a new public defender for Palfrey within a week. The judge denied Palfrey's request, however, to hire Herald Farhinger, a New York lawyer who has represented Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Claus von Bulow, the British socialite who was first convicted then acquitted of trying to kill his wife.

Palfrey, who served 18 months in a California state prison for a 1992 conviction for attempted felony pimping, added later that she was dismayed that Tobias had refused to come forward on his own.

"Had he done so earlier along with the many, many others who have used my company's services throughout the years, I most likely would not be in my current predicament," she said.


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