Thursday, May 1, 2008

'DC Madam' Hanged Herself, Police Say

A woman convicted two weeks ago of being the "D.C. Madam" hanged herself Thursday, apparently making good on her vow never to go to prison for running a high-end Washington prostitution ring.
The body of Deborah Jeane Palfrey was found in a shed near her mother's home about 20 miles northwest of Tampa. Police said the 52-year-old Palfrey left at least two suicide notes and other writings to her family in a notebook, but they did not disclose their contents.
Palfrey apparently hanged herself with nylon rope from the shed's ceiling. Her mother discovered the body.
Officers were outside the mother's white and pink home in the community of mostly retirees.
Blanche Palfrey had no sign that her daughter was suicidal, and there was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs were involved, police Capt. Jeffrey Young said.
A man who answered a phone listed for Palfrey's mother declined to comment.
"This is a tragic news and my heart goes out to her mother," said attorney Preston Burton, who represented Deborah Jeane Palfrey in her trial.
A federal jury convicted Palfrey on April 15 of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington's political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican. She was convicted of money laundering, using the mail for illegal purposes and racketeering.
Palfrey had denied her escort service engaged in prostitution, saying that if any of the women engaged in sex acts for money, they did so without her knowledge.
The trial concluded without revealing many new details about the service or its clients. Vitter was among possible witnesses but did not take the stand.
Channing Phillips, the spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in the District of Columbia, said that under sentencing guidelines, Palfrey faced about five or six years in prison. She was free while she awaited sentencing on July 24.
"I am sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years here, because I'm shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever," Palfrey told ABC last year when she released phone records that revealed some of her clients. "Not for a second. I'll bring every last one of them in if necessary."
Dan Moldea, a Washington writer who befriended Palfrey while considering writing a book about her, said she was cautiously optimistic about her trial, even when the case went before the jury.
After the conviction, Moldea sent her an e-mail but didn't hear back. A week later, he said, he sent another note entitled "A Concerned Friend" asking whether she was OK. Again, he didn't hear back.
After hearing of her death, he recalled a conversation over dinner last year when the subject of prison came up.
"She said, 'I am not going back to prison. I will commit suicide first,'" Moldea said.
Prosecutors said Palfrey operated the prostitution service for 13 years.
Vitter, a first-term senator who is married and has four children, has acknowledged being involved with Palfrey's escort service and has apologized for what he called a "very serious sin." But he avoided commenting further.
Besides Vitter, the trial also concluded without the testimony of military strategist Harlan Ullman or Randall Tobias, a former senior State Department official. Both men had been named among possible witnesses.
One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.
Palfrey said last year that she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: "I guess I'm made of something that Brandy Britton wasn't made of."

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Not that anyone's pushing show business at young James. In fact, Broderick admits, "I'm not too comfortable showing him our movies and stuff yet. I'm avoiding it for now. He's seen 'Bee Movie.' He's seen 'Lion King,' and he knows I'm doing the voice, but he barely understands that it's all actors."
Broderick has just come from soaking up some family time with his wife and son at the Deer Valley ski resort in Utah before diving into tub-thumping for "Then She Found Me," opening this Friday (4/25). The film, adapted from Elinor Lipman's novel of the same name, marked a reunion with Helen Hunt, who makes her directing debut with it. They met when they were in their young twenties and made "Project X," then they went on to become a couple, then broke up but stayed friends. Now, Matthew is playing the husband who dumps her, but then wants her back after she finds love with someone else (Colin Firth) -- as she copes with the surprise appearance of her birth mother (Bette Midler), and a pregnancy.
"It was sort of funny to be playing the heel," admits Matthew. "But, I think directing is a very good fit for Helen. We have talked about what kind of movies and acting we like for 20 years, so there were no surprises and she was always very generous."

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