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DC Madam: Let’s Just Cut the Crap, Shall We?

Deborah Jeane Palfrey probably had every intention of killing herself. She may have actively planned her exit from at least April 15 onwards. In an earlier post I noted arguments for Palfrey having been murdered, and attempted to remain neutral. I can no longer do so.

There is a concerted effort afoot to re-cast Palfrey’s death as a homicide. I wouldn’t normally bother addressing this, but even a site as high-profile as the Huffington Post has given it some play, which is a bad sign. This conspiracy theory is going — has probably gone — viral.

On April 30, 2007, I wrote about the DC Madam scandal for the site then known as CrimeBlog.US. I titled my post, “D.C. Madam Madness: Just say, Anal sex!

I noted some reasons why Palfrey seemed less than truthful when she said through her lawyer that her escort service, Pamela Martin & Associates, was an “adult sexual fantasy [service] which stayed within legality, much like going to a strip club.”

For Palfrey, it seemed a crucial argument to make — she had no knowledge of sexual activities between her employees and their clients. If it happened, she contended, it was between the customer and the escort.

When she was convicted of racketeering and money laundering last month, Jeane Palfrey officially lost her argument. But in my post made in April, 2007, I cited easily-found statements on the Web, statements made years ago, that clearly described the nature of Palfrey’s business from a customer’s point of view:

Please don’t ask Ms. Julia [Palfrey’s pseudonym when booking appointments by phone — Ed.] if she has anyone who speaks Greek. Some of them do, and you just have to ask them when they are with you! Funny thing, if you use the terminology “Greek”, most of them don’t know what you are talking about. Just say: “Anal sex”. I am sorry the one I used to see which offered Greek, is no longer there. And, some of the Ladies are there only for a short time (few months!).

Message board posts from dudes calling themselves “Capt. Fred” were not used in court. They were interesting, though, because Jeane Palfrey began to paint herself as some sort of martyr soon after the government shut her down, maintaining a pained and studied pose of complete innocence at all times. It was a pretty hard act to buy when it looked as though the nature of her business was an open secret to the guys reading USASexGuide.info 5 years ago.

After this story first broke, Palfrey worked to re-direct attention back to the men who partook of the services she offered. This made sense — prostitutes aren’t prostitutes unless they have customers, and it’s illegal to purchase sexual favors in many states — but it was self-defeating; if Jeane Palfrey’s services were legal, as she insisted, then why would anyone care about the numbers found in her “42 pounds of customer phone records?” Such information might be valuable gossip, of course — but it wouldn’t always end a politician’s career.

Of course Pamela Martin & Associates was a high-class call girl service. Yes, the service had some high-profile customers. Jeane Palfrey was inadvertently admitting this by making her phone records an issue in the first place. She may have believed that some names behind that list of numbers would come forward and defend her, say, ‘of course it was on the up-and-up’ — even though such a notion would run contrary to the typical behavior of most politicians.

Given that Palfrey was running an escort service aimed at DC power players, another question comes to mind. Were any of those power players motivated enough to kill her?

Palfrey made the 42 lbs of phone records available more than a year ago. Ever since the day DCPhoneList.com went live, reporters and bloggers have been eagerly plugging every possible combination of numbers they could find into the thing. At one point I found a list of politicians’ phone numbers on a Usenet post made in 1995 or 1996 and systematically entered each one into the site — I had no significant results at all. I can’t recall a story since April, 2007 about another blockbuster phone number in Palfrey’s phone records. There have been hints and allegations about politicians as prominent as current VP Dick Cheney, but no one has produced conclusive proof.

Politicians in the U.S. don’t usually have someone covertly killed over rumors that can’t be substantiated through hard evidence. If they did, a lot of political bloggers and a goodly number of print and broadcast journalists would be dead right now.

Considering how high profile the DC Madam story was in the Spring of 2007, the fact that Palfrey’s conviction in April this year was a page 2 item at best in most papers made one thing clear — the story didn’t really have legs anymore. Jeane Palfrey’s phone records have yet to really yield a killer set of digits. In the grand scheme of things in Washington, she was a minor, faceless player at best, without much to offer the news outlets that initially seized her story with gusto.

To anyone in power in Washington, Jeane Palfrey wasn’t important enough to kill.

Alex Jones doesn’t believe that. Jones is a conspiracy theorist. He believes that 9/11 was an inside job, that a globalist cabal used Al Qaeda to ram the planes into the towers in order to decimate the old world order and bring about a new one, where national boundaries were erased, among other things. Everything that points back to Jones’s worldview — or the one that he is selling to his audience — is grist for his mill. To that end, he’d interviewed Ms. Palfrey quite a bit in the past year or so, and considered her a friend of his radio show.

For it seems like it might make perfect sense to Alex Jones that the monolithic, evil government might have some sort of Kafkaesque plan afoot to off poor ole Deborah Jeane. Conspiracy theorists are egosyntonic in nature — their beliefs are often in complete harmony with their outlook, and to question what they believe is anathema to them. Conspiracy theorists are bent towards justifying and defending their theories, not questioning them. (The HuffPo post about this tragedy gave surprisingly uncritical play to Jones’s site in reference to the then-developing “homicide” angle.)

Today, writer Paul Joseph Watson published this article on Jones’s PrisonPlanet.com:

Overwhelming Evidence Points To Murder Of DC Madam.”

That’s right — overwhelming evidence. More evidence than mere mortals can truly comprehend.

Read the article’s subtitle: “‘She insinuated that there is a contract out for her and I fully believe they succeeded,’ says Condo manager…”

Yep. Watson’s (and presumably Jones’s) overwhelming evidence comes in part from statements made by Palfrey’s condo manager.

Quotes from the article, emphasis added:

The manager said that Palfrey had told him of her fears that a contract hit was out on her life.

“She insinuated that there is a contract out for her and I fully believe they succeeded,” he stated.

[…]

Palfrey is on record as warning that any “suicide” would just be a cover-story for murder as far back as 1991.

“If taken into custody, my physical safety and most probably my very life would be jeopardized,” she wrote in August 1991 following an attempt to bring her to trial, “Rape, beating, maiming, disfigurement and more than likely murder disguised in the form of just another jailhouse accident or suicide would await me,” said Palfrey in a handwritten letter to the judge accusing the San Diego police vice squad of having a vendetta against her…

Watson doesn’t linger over this point, yet it is crucial. Jeane Palfrey was specifically referring to what she feared might happen if she were jailed for the charges she was facing in 1991. She wasn’t playing Pretty Woman meets Nostradamus, referencing a possible conviction 17 years in the future. Palfrey feared that the San Diego police were out to get her and that they could do it while she was incarcerated. Her assertions from 1991 are meaningless when referenced now. They’re irrelevant to her suicide on May 1, because Jeane Palfrey didn’t know what would happen to her in 2007 and 2008.

And even though her time in prison surely wasn’t a picnic, Palfrey did indeed serve 18 months on the California charges. No suicide, no homicide. She got out, and went right back to doing what she’d done before.

Jeane Palfrey probably found a kindred spirit in Jones and those who might agree with him, like Mr. Watson, who ended his article with this:

The knowledge that Palfrey had about members of Washington’s elite being involved in and using her escort service for the purposes of hiring prostitutes would have been enough to end scores of careers and wreck the lives of countless influential power brokers. This alone, allied with Palfrey’s on the record statements, demand an immediate and thorough investigation in an attempt to bring to justice the murderers of Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

Palfrey was in her fifties and facing decades in prison. She was probably indigent, or nearly so — the government surely confiscated any assets she acquired through her business. Her conviction told the world that the court believed she was lying all along. She wasn’t an innocent businesswoman, she was a madam running an illegal prostitution service.

Forget what she told Alex Jones about not committing suicide or what Palfrey may have said to author Dan Moldea about doing the deed — look at her circumstances, and what little we know about her past and personality. She had previous convictions for similar crimes. Even after suffering what must have seemed the worst to her at the time, a prison sentence, Jeane Palfrey went back to running an escort service. When the authorities moved in on her for this, she became, for a time, one of the most high-profile accused criminals in the news. Always self-contained, poised and articulate, she spoke to major news magazines, to print journalists. In addition to Alex Jones’s radio show, Palfrey even went on Coast to Coast AM, the internationally popular paranormal-themed radio show made famous by Art Bell, currently hosted by George Noory.

Then it all fell away, as she was pronounced guilty on April 15. She’d do no more guest spots on Coast to Coast about being bullied by the feds; probably no more newsmagazine segments would be devoted to her. Jeane Palfrey would face a prison cell and a number. It’d be a grim prospect for anyone, and drive the most sturdy personality to the edge. To a vain personality, someone who believed herself to be so important that the government might even bring its covert forces to bear against her because she might know a dirty secret, or be some kind of threat — to someone like that a slow fade from the public eye to gray obscurity behind prison walls would be worse than hell on earth.

I think Jeane Palfrey just couldn’t face it. Though I’m not aware at this writing of them being made public, notes she left behind probably said something to that effect. It is difficult to give much credence to those who say she ‘seemed fine’ prior to May1. The psychological mechanisms that influence suicides are still hard to figure out, but a few common patterns have turned up over the years.

With people who make a decision to take themselves out and then begin to plan for the day, something unusual frequently happens — they seem much happier. In a way, someone who commits this kind of suicide is happier than before. Frequently, they put their affairs in order — sell things, give items away, write wills, etc. This kind of suicide can be particularly cruel to the loved ones left behind — they have been lulled by the change in demeanor into thinking things are improving. Jeane Palfrey’s behavior may have matched this type of suicidal pattern. Nothing seemed wrong to others because in her mind, nothing was wrong. She knew what would happen next. Her organizing, cleaning, putting affairs in order was easily interpreted as Palfrey getting ready to go to prison, when it is just as likely that she was doing what someone resigned to self-slaughter often does — take care of business to minimize the mess they left behind.

No, this was most likely a straightforward tragedy, born out of a personality disorder, frank mental illness or a combination of both. And Palfrey mostly created her own circumstances. There are select places, after all, where prostitution is legal. Palfrey never went to those places. She chose to try and run under the radar and trade where the feds were thicker than any other place on this continent — Washington DC. She played with fire and ended up badly burned. So this self-made woman stayed true to form. Rather than go to prison, she left on her own terms.

It won’t happen, but I say let Deborah Jeane Palfrey and her damn phone records lie. It’s over.

Additional link/resource: ::Hopeline:Suicide::

(NOTE: It’s inevitable that some people may think they know my politics after reading a post like this. Be assured the chances are you don’t. In some respects, in fact, my politics may be closer to Alex Jones’s — who appears to be a libertarian — than to your own. On an unrelated note, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t point readers to a recent guest post by new contributor Larkin Vonalt. If you’d rather not deal with the politically-charged nature of this post, check out Larkin’s achingly well-rendered portrait of a modern American tragedy.)