Major prostitution case sees powerful male ‘clients’ escape witness box, while women interrogated

// 17 April 2008

The “DC Madam” trial, which already felled US politician Eliot Spitzer, has taken a turn for the even-worse, we learn from the Washington Post, by way of Jill at Feministe.

It transpires that numerous politicians who were apparently ‘clients’ will not be forced to testify. Senator David Vitter, who Jill describes as “a right-wing ‘family values’ crusader and abstinence-only indoctrination architect”, is one of the men who will not be dragged into the court room and made to explain himself, in graphic detail.

However, the prosecution is forcing 15 women who worked as prostitutes to testify, including a naval officer who the Post says will “almost certainly” see her career come to an abrupt halt, and a 63 year-old retired PhD. The prosecution wants to make public the names of over 100 women who once worked for the madam. For what reason, other than to attempt to shame them? This is really disgusting.

On the interregation of the naval officer:

The prosecutor, Daniel Butler, had the woman spell her name slowly and clearly, then had her talk about when she was “aggressive” with a client, when she was “more submissive,” when she had a difficult client (“he tried to remove the condom”) and how often she got “intimate.”

“What do you mean by ‘intimate’? ”

The soon-to-be-former naval officer looked at him in disbelief. “Touching, caressing,” she explained.

“What happened” after that? he demanded.


“What type of sex?”

“Sometimes it was oral sex; usually it was normal.”

“Normal?” Butler persisted.

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at,” the stricken witness pleaded.

“What’s normal sex?” Butler again demanded.

Judge James Robertson intervened. “He wants to know if you mean intercourse.”

Butler pressed on with more humiliating questions until the judge cut him off. “That’s enough,” Robertson said. Minutes later, the dazed woman was helped out of the room.

From the audience, it appears that prosecutors have presented a solid case that the alleged Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, did indeed run a prostitution ring. A better question, however, is why they bothered. Prosecutors say the prostitution ring generated all of $2 million over 13 years — small potatoes for a federal racketeering and money-laundering case that could ruin the lives of 132 women.

It gets worse:

Wednesday, Connelly was grilling the 63-year-old former escort. “Did you specifically discuss what happened when you went in the shower?” the prosecutor wanted to know.

The witness explained, “I was having sex.”

“What would happen if you were menstruating?” Connelly asked.

What possible function does it serve to make these women answer such questions? While the men who bought them may have to deal with the scandal of being associated with a prostitution case, but are not being forced to dole out the details on the public record. Awful.

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 17 April 2008 at 5:35 pm

Yet again men who buy women’s bodies for sexual abuse receive privileges. Yes indeed why weren’t these Johns ‘paraded’ before the court and why weren’t their names called out very loudly so everyone would know just who some of the men are who engage in raping and sexually abusing women. I see one is a prominent right-wing family values male. No, actually he is a hypocrite just like so many of the Johns who not only believe in exercising their right of buying women for sexual exploitation but are also protected under the male-dominant law.

Shea // Posted 17 April 2008 at 6:27 pm

Nothing about this surprises me. All those sanctimonious dickheads must be congratulating themselves on getting away clean. Always, always women pay the price for some men’s action and their crippled morality. This is like the Scarlet Letter updated for the 21st century-lets shame these women to hide our own hypocrisy. It reminds me of the whole Monica Lewinski scandal. The papers just revelled in being able to label her the “blowjob queen of America” while Clinton, who committed the much more grevious offence of lying under oath, got away scott free. Its absolutely sickening. If I had a daughter I wouldn’t let her near Capitol Hill, not for all the whisky in Ireland.

james // Posted 18 April 2008 at 1:17 am

“Major prostitution case sees powerful male ‘clients’ escape witness box, while women interrogated”

It’s not a prostitution case. It’s a money laundering case. The reason the male ‘clients’ have escaped the witness box is because – drum roll please – no one is suggesting they were witness to money laundering. The prosecution is suggesting that the prostitutes were witnesses, hence they are being interrogated.

I don’t see what’s so scandalous. You can’t call the men to give witness testimony about something they weren’t witnesses to. Vitter wouldn’t know whether they laundered the money or not. He would have long since pissed off.

If you want to have public trials where johns are scarlet lettered then by all means advocate that. But that’s not what money laundering trials are about.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 April 2008 at 8:54 am

Well, these women are not being asked about money laundering, are they?!!!

Anna // Posted 18 April 2008 at 9:29 am

The witness explained, “I was having sex.”

“What would happen if you were menstruating?” Connelly asked.

Call me stupid, but I really don’t see how that has the merest thing to do with money laundering..

chem_fem // Posted 18 April 2008 at 11:34 am

“You can’t call the men to give witness testimony about something they weren’t witnesses to”

I disagree, they WERE witness to it. That they didn’t know what they were witnessing may be true, but they had as much to do with the transactions as the women.

It’s like me saying that if I buy illegal goods, that I am not witness to all the crime that I am funding with my money. If I know that what I am buying is dodgy (and those men knew that much) then I am party to all of the illegal dealings that goes with that. Which is why I wouldn’t buy drugs or pirate DVDs, knowing that the same people who sell these items are likely to be involved in even more dodgy endeavors.

james // Posted 18 April 2008 at 4:42 pm

Chem_fem – I respect what you say about how you shouldn’t be a party to immoral activity. But the men didn’t have as much to do with the transactions as the prostitutes, it was the prostitutes who people are claiming were placing/layering/integrating the money or witness to this.

These guys still aren’t witness in any meaningful sense. It’s perfectly possible to run a prostitution ring without laundering money. Had the women hit the streets and blown their earnings on crack then there wouldn’t be a money laundering trial taking place. The clients just aren’t in a position to know what happened to the cash after it had been handed over.

chem_fem // Posted 18 April 2008 at 4:55 pm

But I feel the men are witnesses. The women can say what ever they want about what goes on, don’t you need people who aren’t part of the business (ie the customer) to corroborate what they say. Especially if what kind of sex was being had is important to the case.

By only taking evidence from the women, aren’t you getting a rather one sided story of what went on. Especially if those women are working in an illegal trade. If you don’t interview the men, then how are you going to get accurate details about how the transactions were carried out, where they saw the money go, and what were the services up for sale.

Helen // Posted 24 April 2008 at 11:50 am

but if it’s about money laundering what the fuck does their menstruation have to do with anything? Yeah, no need for feminism any more folks.

Solicitors in Wakefield // Posted 4 August 2009 at 4:46 pm

Whether or not they were menstruating has nothing more to do with the case than the kind of sex they were having… Its just some prick of a solicitor trying to make a mockery of these prostitutes and demoral them some more… What a twat!

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