“D.C. Madam” Kills Herself in Florida

In Tarpon Springs, Florida, police has identified the body of a suicide victim as “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 52. This is the second suicide associated with the case.

She reportedly killed herself in a trailer owned by her mother. This is a disturbing end to an already disturbing case. The prosecutors used the trial to go after not only Palfrey but women who worked for her in past years. Some of these women had long since stopped working as call girls, but prosecutors insisted on their recounting their work in unnecessary detail. In the meantime, the “Johns” like Sen. Vitter were allowed by the prosecutors to mysteriously escape the witness chair.

This is the second suicide related to the case. Former University of Maryland (Baltimore County) professor Brandy Britton arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January 2007.

In Palfrey’s case, she faced 55 years in prison.

This case, and other recent cases like ex-Gov. Spitzer, raise question over the criminalization of these relations between consenting adults. I confess to a libertarian tendency on such issues, but it is a debate that we are clearly not ready to have in the country.

15 thoughts on ““D.C. Madam” Kills Herself in Florida”

  1. You wrote “It’s never a good deal, emotionally, OR by extension (no pun), quite frankly, physically, for the woman.

    It’s just not how women are built…” Never, huh?

  2. “Patty & Michael: you cannot speak on behalf of all women.”

    Nor did I… Reread what I wrote.

  3. That should have read “occurs ONLY under the conditions you’ve described. But while I’m posting again, what planet are people on that they think prostitution can’t be an “interesting” or satisfying career? Gah. You’ve got to be kidding.

  4. Patty & Michael: you cannot speak on behalf of all women. Please don’t tell me we’re all built a certain way. You are wrong to contend that all prostitution is degrading and occurs under the conditions you’ve described. It’s offensive to women and an ignorant oversimplification of many different kinds of work happening under a variety of conditions performed by many different kinds of people for many different reasons with many different kinds of compensation.

  5. Patty & Puzzling,
    Neither of you appear to be in disagreement regarding the criminalization of prostitution. Where your differences occur seem to be on the issue of the equality of the exchange and the alacrity of the prostitute in undertaking the profession. In that sense while I obviously agree with you both on the former, I lean more towards Patty’s viewpoint on the latter.

    Prostitution is essentially degrading to the prostitute, even though it may be financially quite beneficial. Personally I see sex as a beautiful exchange of deep emotions and excitement. Much of this is missing in the prostituted act I would argue, though I lack the experience. However, this is an emotional and/or moral judgment on my part and I assume on Patty’s part. Puzzling I think views this from a libertarian perspective which abstain from making moral arguments against the financial exchanges of free, consenting adults.

    While there is much in the libertarian philosophy that appeals to me in terms of libertarian views of the exchanges between individuals, I part company with it in terms of its utility in managing a society.
    Ayn Rand was appealing to me in my youth, but even then I did not see how a society run on her terms would not devolve into the most powerful running the whole thing for their sole benefit.

  6. There is something very puzzling about this suicide…

  7. I said none of that.

    I suggested that those other occupations may require some training in advance and may not be feasible in the short term, or may not pay the bills, nor supply more than a basic standard of living, including choices ie, ideally, a decent place to live, community support, perhaps even child-care and freedom to pursue continued education – whatever is needed to support advancement.

    I still say, you don’t ‘get it’.

  8. Hi Patty,

    Thank you for the reply.

    Let’s say that I believe that cigarette smoking is almost never a “good deal” physically (if measured by expected longevity perhaps), but many do it instead of something more “interesting”. Should I be empowered to criminalize it for everyone else based on my beliefs or conclusions? Or should these judgements be left to those whose life it affects?

    I suspect that there are many men and women who want to do more interesting things than sell their bodies, and actually do so. Perhaps some become taxi drivers. Or fishermen. Or waiters. Or miners. Some might even think that these fields aren’t “interesting” enough… but perhaps they have no available alternative to live.

    Are you going to take away these alternatives, or admit that you have no moral claim over the freedoms of these indviduals to choose for themselves, even if you disagree with their choices?

  9. This woman’s death is indeed troubling – at this particular time.

    She had two months left on this earth before her stated desire not to spend one day in jail.

    It doesn’t quite make sense – in more than just one way.

    I look forward to further investigation…

  10. “Two people who make a voluntary exchange are both better off or they wouldn’t do it.

    Laws against sex for money seek to impose a moral constraint on actions that otherwise benefit both parties. Hypocritically, our society both permits and accepts this same conduct (sex for money) when both parties are compensated, such as in adult films.”


    puzzling, Get a clue – You don’t know anything about women!
    Or real prostitution, for that matter!

    MOST women who ‘prostitute’ themselves would rather be doing
    any number of other interesting things instead – that would pay the bills AND provide more than a basic standard of living.

    In that way, they don’t consider it ‘voluntary’ – they simply see no other immediately needed available alternative to live.

    You get great sex and she takes her emotions with her when it’s finished. That’s what you pay for.

    It’s never a good deal, emotionally, OR by extension (no pun), quite frankly, physically, for the woman.

    It’s just not how women are built…

  11. I agree that these laws are hypocritical, especially considering the men who write them. Many of us on who watch or comment on this blog are likely intellectual soul mates, although I’ll count myself among those libertarian individuals who holds these same soul mates to standards that far exceed what I would ever expect to find in everyday society.

    I would be less inclined to discuss these crimes/sins in relative terms to greed, war, and policy-created poverty than I would in absolute terms.

    Laws around prostitution, drug use, gay marriage, and indeed anything that challenges voluntary associations between adults calls out for a reminder of the basic framework of human rights. Google “philosophy of liberty” and watch the top hit by Schoolland. This is an overview (which many here may be quite familiar with), that I often recommend to those with libertarian tendencies who haven’t seen a comprehensive world view framed and summarized in simple human terms.

    Two people who make a voluntary exchange are both better off or they wouldn’t do it. Laws against sex for money seek to impose a moral constraint on actions that otherwise benefit both parties. Hypocritically, our society both permits and accepts this same conduct (sex for money) when both parties are compensated, such as in adult films.

    The initiation of force to take liberty is slavery, be it done by an individual, or by those (including government) acting on behalf of that individual, or many individuals. In this case, it need not be said that greed is a lesser sin than “prostitution” to make prostitution a crime. Neither are crimes.

    Free choice is the basis of a truly free society. Those who seek to limit these freedoms are the real criminals who seek to impose their will over others. Today, this is often done in the name of moral/religious considerations, “patriotism”, “national security”, even “democracy.” None of these are justifications for taking of liberty, life, or the product of life and liberty that is owned by the individuals who produced them.

  12. As a 63 year old, fairly sophisticated male, I must admit to having never used prostitution services, nor ever having gone to a “strip club.” This lack of experience did not occur for moral reasons, nor for lack of sexual experience, it simply never interested me. That being said I can understand that others might feel quite differently and have needs that these businesses can fulfill. That we as a nation choose to criminalize this industry and demonize it’s ancillary services is reflective of moral hypocrisy. This hypocrisy makes sexuality and sensuality the primary sins, while ignoring the far greater (even from a religious perspective)sins of greed,
    war and enforced poverty.

    The criminalization of prostitution has not only been an abject failure of prevention, it has negatively impacted sex workers, led to the spread of STD’s and corrupted our legal system. How different the approach of many European countries and how much more benefit for their societies has
    occurred due to their utilization of decriminalization.

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