ESCORT SERVICE CASE
Ex-Clients Are Aiding Defense, Lawyer Says
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The new attorney for the woman accused of being the "D.C. madam" said yesterday that customers of her former escort business have contacted him with information "helpful" to her defense.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey is accused of running an illegal prostitution ring in Washington for 13 years before she closed her business late last fall. Palfrey, of California, says that she ran a high-end escort service and that the women who worked for her were supposed to provide fantasies and massages -- not sex.
Her attorney, Preston Burton, said after a hearing yesterday that he has been contacted by "several" attorneys for Paltrey's former clients since the court appointed him to represent her May 7.
He said those lawyers have provided information that can help buttress her description of her escorts' services. He said he also expects to contact "hundreds" of potential witnesses when federal prosecutors turn over Palfrey's business records and other evidence. That could happen this week if the two sides agree on protecting personal information that cannot be released under privacy laws.
"Here's the pickle we're in, your honor," said federal prosecutor William Cowden. "The information in government files in some cases relate to other individuals' possible criminal activity. . . . My suspicion is the defense wants to make some of that information public."
Palfrey and the government have been in a protracted dispute over whether she has used some of her phone records from her business, Pamela Martin and Associates, to try to publicly identify former customers and intimidate potential prosecution witnesses.
Palfrey gave ABC News phone records listing numbers of customers and employees from 2002 to 2006. She said she did so because she needed help with identifying defense witnesses.
Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias resigned his post last month after a call from ABC News asking why his number was in Palfrey's phone records. Tobias said that he used the service but that said he received only a massage.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a temporary restraining order May 10 prohibiting Palfrey from making more phone records public.
Burton argued in court papers Friday that the ban is unfair and that Palfrey should be allowed to use the records for her defense. Kessler said she will rule on that dispute after the two sides agree on how on protect privacy rights and Palfrey's right to defend herself.