Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alleged DC madam denies charges, aims to disclose clients

Via Transcending Gender, I've been reading about the case of Deborah Palfrey, accused Washington, D.C. madam. Palfrey claims she was running a legal "fantasy escort" service that did not provide actual sex for pay. At the same time, she is talking about selling her client list -- and is now the prosecutor is trying to have her gagged to protect those clients, including, allegedly, prominent political types such as Dick Morris (hey, why not? he's admitting buying sex before).

Without having studied the details of this case -- info on the Web is relatively scant at this point -- it's not at all clear whether Palfrey's defense is credible. On the one hand, lots of folks who were running prostitution claim they were only providing legal services. On the other hand, there are plenty of adult businesses out there, from dominatrices to escorts, who do provide personalized erotic services within the confines of the law, and who fall occasionally victim to authorities' attempts to twist the law or entrap them. The devil is often in the details, and sometimes it comes down to he-said, she-said. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

A completely separate and also interesting issue is the proposed protective order. Though the motion doesn't say just what type of information they're concerned about, it looks like an effort to protect the reputations of, in some cases, prominent men in Washington (be they consultants, businessmen, or public servants). Whether the court can intervene to protect their privacy, or whether the prominence of certain clients creates matters of public concern covered by the First Amendment, remains to be seen. I personally don't know if there have been cases quite like this before -- I'm betting there have -- or for that matter whether a First Amendment issue will come to the forefront here, but that too will be interesting to see.

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