D.C. madam vows to release records
Matthias Gafni – Times Herald Online July 1, 2007
The 46 pounds of Sprint phone records, stored meticulously over the D.C. Madam's 13-year escort service, is a scandal in waiting that looms large over the nation's capital.
And if the current court-ordered injunction is lifted, allowing Deborah Jeane Palfrey access to her files, she vows to send every last name and phone number to any journalist, blogger or private detective wanting them.
"I kind of think it will be like deciphering the Da Vinci Code," said Palfrey, in an exclusive Times-Herald interview Friday at a local coffee shop.
Of the more than 10,000 client names within the phone records, "a couple dozen to 100 or so" are Washington D.C. bigwigs.
"Statistically, this is absolutely a certainty," she said.
Already, such capital movers and shakers, as Dick Morris, a longtime Bill Clinton political adviser, were named as clients of Palfrey's Pamela Martin and Associates, an escort service she ran from her Vallejo home. Federal prosecutors say she employed more than 100 "prostitutes," earning about $2 million.
In the interview, Palfrey declined to discuss her former business or whether it involved prostitution.
"Does it really matter at this point? I think there are bigger fish to fry here," she said.
The D.C. Madam, as she has been dubbed by the national media, still covered many topics: Why she believes her case will never go to trial; the Bush administration's alleged involvement, dealings with a pushy ABC News team, and even on the Iraq War.
All things equal, Palfrey wants to stick it to the government.
Even if just 20 high-profile names are culled from her phone records, Palfrey says the White House would "implode" over the scandals.
"If what I'm saying is true and this goes to the heart of the Bush administration and the corruption the last several years, then yeah, I'll have an army behind me," Palfrey said.
Palfrey almost didn't have the phone records.
In what Palfrey calls an illegal search warrant last October while she was in Germany, the feds raided her historic Vallejo home, seizing assets and other items allegedly used to operate her escort business. Palfrey still gets a kick out of the fact investigators missed the phone records, which were sitting in neatly marked file boxes in the basement, labeled by year.
"You would die if you saw how many times they walked by them sitting in full view," she said.
It was those high-profile client names, Palfrey says, that kept investigators interested in her.
"I'm not so sure they ever intended to come after me. I think they were just watching me," she said.
"I had been in business 11 years. That's unprecedented to run a business like this for that long and they knew that I had all kinds of names in my files.
"I think they were watching me for 2 years because they knew there was a possible powder keg of information I was sitting on," she said.
The infamous 46 pounds of phone records.
The weighty description of the smoking gun documents came innocently enough from Palfrey's stop at a Benicia UPS store.
Wanting to ship the papers to her Washington D.C. attorney, Palfrey said the UPS clerk told her how much they weighed: "46 pounds."
In early court proceedings, the government still didn't know the records existed, she said. And before she pleaded not guilty to her March 1 indictment on federal racketeering and money laundering charges, Palfrey's attorney played her Trump Card. Palfrey says the charges are bogus as prostitution is not a federal crime.
Attorney Montgomery Sibley held up one page of Palfrey's phone records, telling the court there were a lot more and he planned to call those people as defense witnesses.
Initially, Palfrey said she planned to sell the records to cover her attorney fees.
"We realized within about a week or so that this was probably not a good idea because if we sold the records to the highest bidder they could get into the wrong hands," she said.
But, she still saw them as a valuable defense tool.
At that point, prosecutors claimed the phone records were a forfeitable asset. A judge placed an injunction on the whole 46 pounds.
If lifted, Palfrey says she will "distribute the records en masse to as many responsible journalists, press, media, bloggers in this country," she said.
She said she'll set two parameters: that recipients keep the information, and leave her former employees alone.
"You have no idea how many people have come to me and have said things to me like, 'You have an obligation as a citizen to release those records,' " she said.
She says she's reluctant, because she doesn't want to destroy her clients' lives.
Some, however, she's willing to let fry.
"We're going to be able to get to the bottom of all this corruption in this country," Palfrey said.
"These are people who either violated the public trust by using the service or they have endangered the public welfare by using the service," she said, pointing to "religious right goody-two-shoes" who she calls "hypocrites." She calls her situation just another Bush administration scandal, like the Scooter Libby trial and firing of the U.S. attorneys.
Palfrey says these Washington insiders could have jeopardized national security because some could be blackmailed by other countries' intelligence agencies or terrorist groups to reveal their "sexual dalliances."
If released, Palfrey said she wants media, bloggers and others to cull through the phone lists "finding tidbits of information."
"I'm going to get this story out if hell freezes over."
The story almost came out May 4, when ABC News, which received a copy of the phone records, planned to name names.
ABC acquired the highly sought client list in mid-March, after Palfrey abandoned the idea of selling the documents.
ABC News approached Palfrey saying they couldn't pay her for the documents, but could research them for possible defense witnesses or leads.
Palfrey was grateful.
"In return, all they wanted was exclusivity and all the records," Palfrey said.
Palfrey and her lawyer could send ABC only 80 percent of the records, from 2002-2006.
"We did not give them all 13 years because we were in the middle of the process of giving them the information when the kids go to the judge," said Palfrey, who refers to the 30-something federal prosecutors as "kids."
The "kids" secured the injunction, but ABC already had most of the records, so Palfrey thought names would still emerge.
Meanwhile, Palfrey said ABC News badgered her and Sibley to keep mum.
"For the 7 1Ž2 weeks ABC had the records they baby-sat me and my attorney. They hovered over us. They wouldn't let us out of their sight," she said. "They were scared to death I was going to speak to you or give anyone else an exclusive interview. They were terrified of that."
Especially, with CBS News hot on Palfrey's tail.
When the May 4 sweeps week broadcast aired, ABC News suddenly nixed naming any client names, instead just running an interview with Palfrey.
"Within 24 hours the whole thing was whitewashed," Palfrey said. "They had names to name and they didn't name them.
"Who knows who got to them Š I think the powers that be at Disney (ABC's parent company) were exerting pressure on them to kill the story and they killed it at the last minute," she said.
Since the show aired?
"We haven't heard from them once," she said.
Despite her legal issues, Palfrey's spirits are up these days.
"The charges have got to be dropped," she said, adding she already turned down a plea deal costing her two-thirds of her life savings, four months in prison and four months in a half-way house.
In early May, defense attorney Preston Burton, who represented Monica Lewinsky during two of President Bill Clinton's investigations, became her court-appointed lawyer.
Palfrey remains defiant toward prosecutors.
"They were thinking I was like every other sap in this country and would roll over pretty quickly, because I've been told I'm in one heck of an unusual situation. Nobody fights them like this. Everyone just rolls over," she said.
"I tell you where it's going to go when it's over, I'm suing the hell out of just about everybody."
Palfrey pulls no punches when discussing the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War.
"I think we were lied to, I think it's totally political and it has absolutely nothing to do with freedom. It has to do with money," she said.
When her case winds up, Palfrey says she plans to move to Germany.
"I think our country is really very ill right now and unless people step back in and fix the problem then this will not be the country we once knew."
E-mail Matthias Gafni at email@example.com or call 553-6825.
Last updated 07/07/2007