Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the “D.C. Madam” who was due to be sentenced this summer on federal prostitution charges, apparently committed suicide yesterday in Florida. Time magazine says she faced up to 55 years behind bars (though sentencing guidelines could well have limited her prison time to a maximum of 71 months.) Palfrey’s trial is one of very few such cases prosecuted in the federal courts. Most prostitution violations are dealt with at the state or municipal level, and attract little publicity.
Former employees and clients of her escort service testified that they had engaged in sexual acts in exchange for money, a version of events that contradicted Palfrey’s claims that she had been running a high-end sexual fantasy service. Author Dan Moldea, who interviewed Palfrey, said, “You have to remember that all those who worked for her service and those who used it – none of them were held to account, or punished. And now, she is dead.”