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Warning to Sen. Vitter: DC Madam Case Not Over?

Maybe Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) isn't completely off the hook when it comes to the late "D.C. Madam," Deborah Jean Palfrey. And other Washington Johns who used the late Palfrey's escort service and whose names remained below the radar screen may want to find a nice hiding place.

Palfrey's civil attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, sent an e-mail to reporters today claiming that since Palfrey, who was found dead of an apparent suicide on May 1, is now deceased, the judge in the case is required to dismiss criminal charges against her.

"The dismissal of the criminal case lifts the stay of the civil forfeiture of Jeane's seized assets -- which total over $1.5 million -- and that civil case will now proceed," Sibley wrote. (Note: Sibley spells Palfrey's name as "Jeane," though police who found her body at a trailer park in Florida on May 1 say her name on her driver's license was spelled "Jean.")

What all of this means, according to Sibley, is that the action "could ultimately result in a complete re-trial of the matters raised in the criminal case with the significant difference that the rules of civil procedure would allow broad discovery of information that the government was able to block from use in the criminal matter. That information includes, among other data, the names of 855 customers of the Jeane's escort service and their telephone numbers saved for -- but oddly not used -- in the criminal trial and heretofore never publicly revealed which are presently in the custody of the undersigned."

Keep in mind that Sibley's law license has been suspended in Florida and the District of Columbia. Sibley is awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court as soon as today or tomorrow on his appeal of the rulings. But if what he says is true, this could mean -- and we should stress could mean -- that unnamed Johns may be subject to public scrutiny. And Vitter, who has largely escaped political fallout from his connection to Palfrey's former escort service when he was a member of the House, could face further unwanted media attention.

"Everybody is on the table," Sibley told us via telephone, "to be subpoenaed or examined before trial under oath." He says he kept the names of more than 800 people a secret because "you always want a surprise witness at trial." He declined to comment on whether any are public officials or high-profile names.

Sibley says a "status conference" is set for next Tuesday, June 17 at the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington. He is seeking, on behalf of Palfrey's estate - if he's still able to practice law in the District - to recoup Palfrey's assets seized by the government. Sibley says he assumes Palfrey's mother, Blanche Palfrey, will control the estate.

Palfrey was found guilty of prostitution-related charges of racketeering and money laundering on April 15. She faced up to 55 years in prison and was free pending a July 24 sentencing when her body was found in a shed behind her mother's mobile home.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  June 9, 2008; 1:12 PM ET
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