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D.C. Madam Tragedy

Word that convicted "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jean Palfrey committed suicide Thursday morning shocked Capitol Hill, where Palfrey's most famous known client, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), was going about his day's work.

Palfrey, 52, whose prosecutorial saga ballooned into a full-fledged political sex scandal, was found dead around 11 a.m. in a shed behind her mother's mobile home in Tarpon Springs, Fla., according to police. Detectives say she was the victim of "an apparent suicide by hanging."

Her demise stunned defense attorneys around town, who described Palfrey's suicide as every defense lawyer's worst fear.

Palfrey's lawyer, Preston Burton said, "This is tragic news, and my heart goes out to her mother."

Another D.C. defense attorney, Barry Boss, told the Sleuth, "The whole thing, from start to finish, had a real sense of tragedy for her, her employees and her customers. If this were Shakespeare or the opera, it would seem like a fitting final act."

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, contending that her company was "a legal, high-end erotic fantasy service" with clients "from the more refined walks of life." (Jay Mallin -- Bloomberg News)

The tragedy of how Palfrey wound up taking her own life in a trailer park was eerily foreshadowed in an interview she gave ABC News last year as she awaited trial on prostitution-related charges of racketeering and money laundering.

She vowed that she would never again return to prison. (She had already served time in the 1990s on other charges involving prostitution.) "I sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years," she said.

Palfrey faced up to 55 years in prison for her conviction on April 15 by a federal jury of running a prostitution service. She was free pending her July 24 sentencing.

Palfrey's was one of the most widely dropped names around Washington for many months last year as the town's chattering class -- namely the media -- contemplated a trial that had the potential to humiliate scores of important men at the highest echelons of politics. That never came to pass, though Palfrey did make a name for herself nationally when she provided ABC News with thousands of pages of her phone records last summer.

Though it had titillating potential and most of Washington waited with bated breath for a knockout sex scandal that would implicate high-level politicians, the biggest name on that particular set of phone records was Randall Tobias, the State Department's administrator of foreign aid programs, who resigned as a result.

But it was a gumshoe reporter working for Hustler publisher Larry Flynt who nabbed the most high profile name of all on Palfrey's client list: Senator Vitter, whose telephone number showed up six times on Palfrey's escort service's phone log between 1999 and 2001, when he was a House member.

Palfrey later posted her phone records on the Internet.

Vitter famously apologized last July for committing "a very serious sin" in his past, but he has so far avoided any political fallout for his involvement in the escort service. He luckily narrowly avoided having to testify last month at D.C. Madam's trial.

Palfrey claimed all along that her service provided "erotic fantasy," not actual sex. And she planned to rely on the testimony of her clients, including Vitter, to back up that claim, though ultimately her defense rested its case without calling any witnesses.

The senator's office did not return a phone call and email seeking reaction to Palfrey's suicide. Around the time that the story broke Thursday, Vitter was seen walking from the Capitol back to his office in the Senate Hart office building, where just Wednesday night, the Louisiana National Guard hosted a crawfish boil, which Vitter attended.

(Note: While Palfrey's middle name routinely was spelled as "Jeane" in news accounts throughout her legal ordeal, police in Florida say the name on her California-issued driver's license was Deborah Jean Palfrey.)

By Mary Ann Akers  |  May 1, 2008; 6:58 PM ET
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Next: Rep. Vito Fossella: Drunker Than Just Drunk


No one is reading your dribble

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Her motto was: The Customer Always Comes First

Posted by: John | May 1, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

The correct phrase is "bated breath". One can only assume that your "baited breath" smells like worms.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mary Ann, for printing THE FACTS, and dispelling all the crazy conspiracy theories that the Post blogs are currently running with about the "secrets" in Ms. Palfrey's "little black book." Sheesh! It's scary the level of intelligence that is shown on these blogs! This is an unspeakably tragic story, because the "madam" was convicted on federal racketeering charges for a victimless crime-a questionable use of American taxpayer dollars, particularly DC taxpayer dollars, when there is SO MUCH MURDER IN THE DISTRICT THAT GOES UNSOLVED -TRUE VICTIMS WHO NEVER HAVE ANYONE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE FOR THE MURDER OF THEIR LOVED ONES-but this IS your U.S. Attorney's Office at work, isn't it?

And Ms. Palfrey was afraid, convicted and alone, at 52 years of age, she was not a young woman-she could not bear the thought of being behind bars again-so she decided to take her fate into her own hands. Unspeakably tragic.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse

"And Ms. Palfrey was afraid, convicted and alone, at 52 years of age, she was not a young woman-she could not bear the thought of being behind bars again-so she decided to take her fate into her own hands. Unspeakably tragic."

How do you know? Sounds like a good novel.-

How about the facts. Like:
ONTGOMERY, ALABAMA - In two states where US attorneys are already under fire for serious allegations of political prosecutions, seven people associated with three federal cases have experienced 10 suspicious incidents including break-ins and arson.

These crimes raise serious questions about possible use of deliberate intimidation tactics not only because of who the victims are and the already wide criticism of the prosecutions to begin with, but also because of the suspicious nature of each incident individually as well as the pattern collectively. Typically burglars do not break-into an office or private residence only to rummage through documents, for example, as is the case with most of the burglaries in these two federal cases.

In Alabama, for instance, the home of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman was burglarized twice during the period of his first indictment. Nothing of value was taken, however, and according to the Siegelman family, the only items of interest to the burglars were the files in Siegelman's home office.

Siegelman's attorney experienced the same type of break-in at her office.

In neighboring Mississippi, a case brought against a trial lawyer and three judges raises even more disturbing questions. Of the four individuals in the same case, three of the US Attorney's targets were the victims of crimes during their indictment or trial. This case, like that of Governor Siegelman, has been widely criticized as a politically motivated prosecution by a Bush US Attorney.

The main target of the indictment, attorney Paul Minor, had his office broken into, while Mississippi Supreme Court Justice, Oliver E. Diaz Jr., had his home burglarized. According to police reports and statements from Diaz and from individuals close to Minor, nothing of value was taken and the burglars only rummaged through documents and in Minor's case, also took a single computer from an office full of expensive office equipment.

The incidents are not limited to burglaries. In Mississippi, former Judge John Whitfield was the victim of arson at his office. In Alabama, the whistleblower in the Don Siegelman case, Dana Jill Simpson, had her home burned down, and shortly thereafter her car was allegedly forced off the road.

While there is no direct evidence linking these crimes to the US Attorneys' office targeting these individuals, or to the Bush administration, there is a distinct pattern that makes it highly unlikely that these incidents are isolated and unrelated.

All of these crimes remain unsolved.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Woman who filed lawsuit found dead

By Barbara Fulenwider

The Fort Bend County woman would filed a December, 2002 lawsuit against former governor and current sitting President George W. Bush was found dead in September in her Lake Village home in Sienna Plantation.

Margie D. Schoedinger of Missouri City, Texas, filed a lawsuit against George W. Bush in Fort Bend County Court. In her suit she alleged, "race based harassment and individual sex crimes committed against her and her husband." The suit lists numerous offenses and asks for actual damages, punitive damages and judgments against George W. Bush.

In her suit, among the many allegations, she has stated, "On or about, October 26, 2000, an attempt was made to abduct Plaintiff (Schoedinger) by three unknown assailants. Because of the actions of these assailants, Sugar Land police officers were dispatched to the scene. In the end, no report was taken. The assailants were treated respectfully and allowed to go free while Plaintiff (Schoedinger) was repeatedly and aggressively questioned. After filing a lawsuit, the Plaintiff's family and past contacts were questioned and harassed."

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

SUGAR LAND, Texas (CNN) -- Former Enron Corp. vice chairman J. Clifford Baxter was found dead in his car in a Houston suburb early Friday, the victim of an apparent suicide, police said.

Baxter made millions on the sale of Enron stock, but reportedly was unhappy with Enron's business practices and resigned as vice chairman in May. He had remained as an Enron consultant.

Enron, once a giant energy corporation, has collapsed in the biggest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history amid accusations of mishandling of funds and shredding of crucial documents. Enron and its accounting firm, Andersen LLP, are under congressional investigation.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Maybe she hooked up Obama? Everyone seems to be covering up for him. Maybe this is part of the effort to get him elected even though the American people are having second thoughts. Maybe she knew too much like that choir director.

Posted by: Conspiracy | May 1, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Sugar Land! Do you believe in coincidence?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

The possibility of three coincidences is very high.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Yeah right.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

One more ruined life, for a victimless crime...

Meanwhile, strutting little Georgie, our Flight Suit Boy, celebrates the fifth anniversary of "Mission Accomplished."

Who is the real criminal?

Posted by: Jeff Wagner | May 1, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

According to documents from the Sheriff's Department, Justice of the Peace Ike Fredrickson's office and the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, Schoedinger was found deceased in her home apparently suffering from a single gunshot wound to the head. Justice of the Peace 'Ike' Fredrickson ordered an autopsy. However, even before the autopsy was conducted, the SUGAR LAND POLICE CALLED IT A SUICIDE.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Living in Bush's American makes you want to commit suicide, unless you are one of the Bushies stealing the country blind.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 8:01 PM | Report abuse

How do I know? Easily enough to deduce from her own words: She suffered a debilitating stress related illness when she served time as a young woman, and stated some months back she would never go back, not even for one day-she's not young anymore, and she couldn't bear the thought of being inside for years, for a victimless crime...but Sen. Vitter and all those little johns just go right on with their life and their work, as if nothing at all happened...I hope, what goes around, Vitter comes around, for the hypocritical Senator and all those other johns who get off scot free.. your time will come.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Our leaders and politicians would never have someone rubbed out. This kind of thing only goes on in other contries that aren't as "evolved" as the U.S. is. Wake up people!!!

Posted by: woody | May 1, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

ha ha ha ha ha ha rendition

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 9:02 PM | Report abuse

As the son of a suicide I find it difficult to find any humor in this saga.Of course the judicial system did not know the eventual outcome of her conviction, but I imagine somewhere, someone of Religious Righteousness is wagging their finger, claiming God's will has been executed.

Nothing good came from this; I can't imagine anyone involved feels that this an appropriate resolution.

Posted by: Ben | May 1, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse

The article says that Palfrey's suicide is every defense lawyer's nightmare.

But we now have two women in this case who have committed suicide -- it seems to me that the person who decided to prosecute this case at such a high level may be the one having nightmares. And well that person should have nightmares.

The main reason I can think of to prosecute prostitution is when young girls are getting dragged into it, sometimes against their will -- they are genuine victims. But these women were not in that situation. But we have a prosecutor who nevertheless thought it a good idea to go after all these folks, and -- understandably, when you consider what jail is like -- Palfrey took her life.

Maybe we should change anti-prostitution laws so that they are put in gear only when there are real victims. So that we don't cause people to take their lives. Don't forget there were two suicides, not just Palfrey, but one of the people working for her as well.

Posted by: Tom | May 1, 2008 9:58 PM | Report abuse

What a pathetic, immature, hypocritical country this is. This woman gets to die rather than spend her life in prison for a "crime" that involved no one getting hurt.

Meanwhile, the powerful men who played an equal role in this supposedly heinous crime, are clinking champagne glasses in relief in DC tonight.

What a despicable, hypocritial value system is at work here. And your tax dollars allowed it to play out.

We are under Sharia Law in this country, even as our armed forces supposedly fight fundamentalism in Afghanistan.

Posted by: B2O2 | May 1, 2008 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Any reporters care to poll the jury that convicted her now?

Not only is something like this a defense lawyer's worst nightmare, it is everyone's worst nightmare, from the Judge, to the prosecutors, to the witnesses who were forced to testify, to her own lawyers and especially to the jurors.

When my law clerk committed suicide immediately AFTER passing the Maryland Bar Exam over 25 years ago, [1] I wondered if I was responsible [2] his fiancee [also a law student] wondered if she was responsible [3] his ex-wife wondered if she was responsible [4] my secretary wondered if she was responsible and [5] his private detective co-employees at his full-time job with Giant Food wondered if they were responsible -- but not those in charge of that detective group -- instead they immediately searched his girlfriend's apartment, with whom he had been living and confiscated what were allegedly records related to his work activities. Later, I would be told by his co-employee detectives, that they believed that he had come across a very high level embezzlement operation and they believed that maybe he had been killed because of what he had possibly learned.


But I had the most difficult issue of consciousness, for the day before his suicide, things had been slow at my law office and he asked if he could read the court transcripts in my first professional disciplinary case with the Bar Association and after spending several hours, he came out of his office looking aghast and stunned. He stated to me, 'I have worked for you and I have seen how you truly care for your clients -- beyond anything I have ever witness from other lawyers I have known' and how he could not understand how they could have done this to me.

I responded that regardless of his observations about who he knew me to be, that when the Bar decides to go after 'one of their less popular members,' the gloves come off and that is what had happened to me. I told him that he'd get over it.

As he left, he responded that he had not worked multiple jobs, day and night for 7 years to enter a supposed learned profession that was so uncaring of its members. He then departed. The next day he killed himself with a single gunshot to the head. It was then too late for me to go back and disallow his reading of those transcripts. I have lived with his death squarely on my shoulders ever since -- as best I can.

No-one really comes out unscathed it seems.

Posted by: | May 2, 2008 1:16 AM | Report abuse

We must demand that the US Attorneys Office and the FBI investigate the suspicious deaths of Brandy Britton and Deborah Jeanne Palfrey as potential murder. The investigation should be conducted with the same zeal that they used to destroy these women. Let us not forget that it is national "law day", and politicians are no more above the law than prostitutes. Sorry to the prostitutes for the comparison.

Posted by: angled b4 | May 2, 2008 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Get real. These women had serious mental health issues. First, one was a professor, not a penniless teenage drug addict. The other had done MINIMAL time, only 18 months. She faced only five years. She never accepted responsibility, never admitted (unlike her stable members) that sex is sex, and blamed her incarceration on illness. Give me a break. While a suicide is always pointless, no one could stop her, just like her lawyer couldn't shut her up. Pity the mom, the one victim. All you psychos with "conspiracy" theories and sob stories never mentioned her (with one indirect exception). Sorry. But, the truth hurts. None of these women had to be hookers, and Deborah enjoyed being the boss, threatening the johns, etc. And, no, I have nothing to do with hypocritical DC. Other than being nauseated by the self serving hand wringing and hypocrisy. Some posters sound like Reverend Wright. Get real.

Posted by: Get Real | May 2, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like the Jeb mafia is still trying to protect the RPOF Backroom Insiders.

Posted by: Singing Senator | May 2, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

"D.C. Madam Tragedy" The only tragedy here is that she didn't kill herself earlier. It would have saved us money. A crook is a Crook.

Posted by: LAENT | May 2, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Senator Vitter didn't even get a slap on the wrist. The men of Washington DC have created a demand for this type of service. Again, the women shoulders all the blame while Vitter remains untouched sucking his crawfish.
It is suspect that she show ups dead when she was about to release names from her list of clients. Why do the men in Washington think they are above the law? Why did they begin an investigation against this particular woman? What did she know? Had she over heard something she wasn't supposed to.
I choose not to be tranquilized by the faux news spewed each night on the television. You can swallow the sensored news they allow the talking heads to report, but I don't.

Posted by: okloon | May 2, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

This is a tragedy only because these tabloids won't be able to keep reporting on her.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 2, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

No one will convince me that she committed suicide.
It's another case of filthy Washington politics.
All of those elected leaders in DC can now breath easier.
Case closed. We will never know anymore.

Posted by: Richard Daly | May 2, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Strange that she has been quoted by other reporters as saying if she was found dead as a suicide, it would be murder, and that she feared for her life.

I was fortunate to correspond with her briefly last summer, and the full list of phone calls has yet to be indexed, because they had been scanned from the original paper phone bills, but not converted into text files for cross referencing.

She seemed overwhelmed by the whole affair, and did not deserve this fate, whatever the truth about her demise is.

Personally, I am doubtful about her reported means of passing, and I hope there will be more than a cursory investigation, but it IS Florida, after all...

Posted by: vaporland | May 2, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Florida or not, the order for the hit came from DC.

Posted by: Richard Daly | May 2, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

The woman dies and Sen. Vitter goes on his hypocritcal merry way. One of Vitter's most recent efforts to help the "people" of Louisiana: "Filling out paper work is too burdensome for gun dealers..." In the meantime, criminals are blasting one another on the streets of New Orleans with AK-47's. 67 MURDERS this year alone and counting. And Mr. Vitter's support for teaching creationism in public schools, "Let me align myself on the side of the holy rollers...that'll boost my ratings with the Christians..." Just say a prayer and ask "God for forgiveness" for cheating on your wife and paying for prostitution, then get a standing ovation from your Republican in Washington peers for "confessing and saying you're sorry", because they really don't want to lose a Republican seat - MORE HYPOCRITES. Then you wake up the next morning, even in the face of Ms. Palfrey's suicide, that you had hand in Mr. Vitter, and say to yourself, "Gee, I think I can live with myself." You have no shame. I don't care what one person does in his private life, but don't preach from your self-righteous soap box. And yes, prostitution is illegal, and yes Ms. Palfrey broke the law, but so did you, Sen. "Holier-than-thou" Vitter. Pray all you want Mr. Vitter...we know who and what you really are.

Posted by: Frank - New Orleans | May 2, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Tarheel said best in another post. He/she said, I've stayed away from these blogs for six months because of the loony partisans who dominate the discussions. I thought I'd check back once. Same old crap. People bringing up Bush, Cheney, and McCain as clients of the madam. You Democrats are so sad. Sure some Republicans get involved in scandals. But they for the most part apologize and resign from office. Most Democrats in scandals just shrug their shoulders and continue running for office. And inexplicably Democrats re-elect them (can you say Barney Frank, William Jefferson, etc.). Or they can make $109 million dollars posing as moral guides while giving speeches (Bill Clinton). Victimless crime? Typical Democratic Party attitude. Ask the wives and children of the men involved if the crime is victimless.

Posted by: BadgerOne | May 2, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Just in case anyone out there thinks I'm a Democrat picking on Mr. Vitter, I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool, Southern Republican, and voted for Mr. Vitter and Ronald Regan. The GOP has been damaged by lies, corruption, hypocrisy, ineptness, over-spending...and yes, there's a lot of the same from the Democrats...I'm now a registered Independent who will no longer vote along party lines.

Posted by: Frank-New Orleans | May 2, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

First, regarding HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA rendition!: That's a little more then what life and death is about.

Second regarding the comment by Badgerone,and to paraphrase, that "the Clinton's have no right to make less then Rush Limbaugh", is probably correct if you,or Mr Linbaugh are the moral arbitors of our days and not The Clinton's,as you have stated.

And finally whether or not The DC Madamn as Ms. Palfrey is described is as immoral as the commentary suggests:if you can't say anything nice about.................


dePaul Consiglio

Posted by: dePaul Consiglio | May 2, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: votenic | May 2, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I suggest that it was Colonel Mustard, in the Study with the rope.

Posted by: Mr. Hasbro | May 2, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse


She was whacked by McCain, he was her client.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 3, 2008 3:50 AM | Report abuse

The media takes too much license regarding such cases. What happened to Palfrey is indeed tragic; the "death penalty" in essence, for a crime not commensurate with it. Whatever views one holds regarding sin and morality, Palfrey was a human soul like the rest of us. It may be that the publicity had more to do with her death than we think.

Posted by: Jon Bodenet | May 4, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Why is Vitter still a Senator? Isn't he now an accomplice to her suicide? Reminds me of the song, "Who killed Davey Moore?" by Bob Dylan. Don't blame me said the.... Why'd she die and what's the reason for?

Posted by: thebob.bob | May 5, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

She is a martyr to skanks everywhere.

Posted by: MA | May 5, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Well check out Hookergate
Washington Times Thursday june 29.1989
July 29 1989 Senator john Decamp
Lawrence E king much ...For the Male Animal.. Who has the Little black Book from the madame?HIGH TIME to legalise ESCORT Service P.S She was cheaper then BLACKWATER escorts in Iraq1

Posted by: sigup | May 5, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Miss Akers, why did you not mention client Dick Cheney? Ask Brian Ross if you need to verify! Also, Republican former gov of Maryland, Ehrlich? He was on the "list" so GOP nixed his run for a second term. Other notable "suicides" by enemies of Bush & Co.: Ray Lemme, FDOT investigator
Johnathan Luna, Baltimore ADA also involved in the D.C. madam case. "Bush Body Count"--all expendable, all ground up in the Bush/GOP political extortion machine. Let's not forget Lori Klausutis, ask TV personality Joe Scarborough about her. Expendable, all.

Posted by: JanisL | May 6, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

This is such a sad tragedy. By the way what is the State's interest in consenting adults participating in sex and paying for it? I understand it is immoral and sin in many eyes but why is it against the law? Adultery is a sin but there is no law against it. Don't we have bigger crimes to solve than policing the private lives of consenting adults?

Posted by: William | May 6, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

She did what she had to do

Posted by: Sach 2 | May 7, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Two women committed suicide because of this prosecuters persecution of women but not the johns. I just think there is a misogynistic bend to the prosecutor and law enforcement's pursuit of the prostitution racket.

Posted by: djw3505 | May 7, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

B202 Hit the nail on the head. Others have said the same, but nobody has said it better.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | May 8, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

She was murder plain and simple and I wish that the majority of American's would pull their head out their asses. So we can get these murderers out of office.

Posted by: Bianca | May 9, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

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