ABC: Most of 'DC madam' clients aren't 'newsworthy'
Published: Friday May 4, 2007
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Palfrey: Former escort committed suicide after arrest

On ABC's 20/20, Deborah Jeane Palfrey spoke about the upscale escort service that she ran in Washington D.C., in a story which has captivated the nation's capital as many wonder what possible power brokers may have been on the clientele list.

Palfrey said that the authorities aren't interested in the list of reportedly 1,000 names of her former clients that the "DC madam" turned over to ABC. Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias resigned last Friday "twenty-four hours after confirming to 20/20" that he'd been a client, and admitted to receiving massages from an escort.

According to ABC, most of the names just aren't "newsworthy." While reports indicated that ABC would reveal at least two client's names, no new ones were revealed, including the name of the president of a conservative think tank who was alluded to in earlier reports.

"The phone numbers also track back to Georgetown mansions and prominent CEOs, officials at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and lobbyists both Republican and Democratic," ABC's Brian Ross reported.

Ross added, "But as usually is the case in Washington, much of it is dull. There were no members of Congress that we could find in these phone records, no White House officials."

Palfrey already "outed" Harlan Ullman, an associate of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who coined the "shock and awe" bombing strategy used in Iraq, in court papers filed last month. Ullman's lawyer "says his client won't back down if he is called to testify by Jeane Palfrey, who prosecutors say ran an illegal prostitution ring for 13 years."

At ABC's The Blotter, Brian Ross, Justin Rood & Lisa Schwartz reveal how the news department figured out the names on the list.

Many of the "identities proved difficult to match" due to the fact that clients sometimes called from hotel rooms.

"One customer in particular had told them he worked in the White House," ABC reports. "In dramatic tones, he told the story of evacuating the presidential residence during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks."

However, the man had only "worked near the White House, not in it" and "apparently exaggerated his importance."

Palfrey: Professor ultimately committed suicide

On Friday's broadcast, ABC revealed that one of Palfrey's former escorts committed suicide after being arrested: "Brandy Britton, a professor at the University of Maryland, with a Ph.D. in sociology when she started to work as a call girl for the D.C. Madam."

"This is a woman who was divorced, who was trying to raise two, ah, high-school children, college-age children," Palfrey said. "Great job title, the great position, all the respect in the world, but she wasn't making enough money. So she decided to do a little moonlighting."

Palfrey added, "And she was publicly outed, is a good way to put it, she was absolutely humiliated. Ah, she couldn't take the humiliation. Her whole life was destroyed. And she, she just, ah, ultimately committed suicide."

Excerpts from ABC report:


Palfrey herself wasn't much help with this aspect. Although she says she personally arranged the vast majority of "appointments" between her "gals" and paying customers during the firm's 13-year run, she said she had gained precious little knowledge of her clients' true identities. The men generally did not use their real names on the phone, she said, they paid in cash, and she never saw them in person.

Some of her escorts told her of clients they thought were prominent. One customer in particular had told them he worked in the White House. In dramatic tones, he told the story of evacuating the presidential residence during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Using details gleaned from the phone records, researchers matched the identity of the storyteller: no dice. The man worked near the White House, not in it. He had apparently exaggerated his importance.

That wasn't the only false lead. Another number in Palfrey's records traced back to a phone number belonging to the head of a recognized educational institution. A closer study revealed his number was the same as one linked to a popular escort with the service, although the area code was different. When ABC News called, the man denied he had ever contacted the service but noted that he had for years been plagued with numerous hang-up calls to his phone, often late at night. Now, he said, he thinks he knows why.