Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel 05/01/2007
The woman who faces charges of running a prostitution ring in Washington that serviced the prominent and powerful said Monday that she intended to force many of those clients to testify in her behalf.
Deborah Jeane Palfrey is offering a simple defense to government charges that the escort service she ran for 13 years by telephone from her home in California was actually a straightforward prostitution business.
Although she promoted her business as a legal "high-end erotic fantasy service," she said it was not intended as an exchange of sex for money. She said Monday that her former clients, reported to include a Bush administration economics official and the head of a conservative research group, among others, should confirm that when they are called to testify.
If any sexual activity occurred, she said, it was not authorized or intended by her but undertaken independently by her female subcontractors and male clients "who disobeyed my directives, their signed contracts and participated in illegal behavior."
In other words, she is stunned at allegations that sexual activity had taken place between the women who worked for her and the men who paid them about $300 for 90 minutes of whatever.
As for now, the names of only two have been revealed. The most prominent was Randall L. Tobias, a veteran businessman and the top foreign aid adviser in the State Department, who resigned Friday after he acknowledged to ABC News that he was on the list of Palfrey's clients.
The other, disclosed on Palfrey's Web site, was Harlan K. Ullman, a Defense Department consultant best known for coining the phrase "shock and awe" to describe the intended effect on Iraq of the war's opening barrage, but the phrase also might well describe his own reaction to being called by reporters on Friday about the disclosure, to which he declined comment.
Palfrey says she did not know the actual names of her clients, just their telephone numbers. She said she gave them to ABC News without compensation so the network could use its resources to match names to the numbers.
ABC has used the information to prepare a story to be broadcast this Friday on its show 20/20. In a tease for the segment, ABC said on its Web site Monday that the list includes, "a Bush administration economist, the head of a conservative think tank, a prominent CEO, several lobbyists and a handful of military officials" in addition to Tobias and Ullman.
Tobias said that he had used the escort service but said he only received massages.
Palfrey said Monday that she felt sorry for Tobias because of the unwanted attention he has received, but was gratified that he supported her story that she did not run a sex-for-money service. She chided him, however, for choosing not to come forward earlier with his "extremely valuable exculpatory evidence."
GOING TO COURT: Deborah Jeane Palfrey, charged with running a prostitution ring, is escorted by her civil attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, in Washington. Palfrey says she was stunned to discover her employees had sex for money. AP photo/Jacquelyn Martin