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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Government & Elections
DC Madam hookergate expands beyond Cheney & ABC to Maryland Governor, US Attorney, murder
Hookergate expands: Cheney, fired US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, who charged he was fired because of pressure from DOJ and Maryland GOP Governor, and Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich, whose staff was linked to a prostitution ring.
May 12-13, 2007 -- Hookergate involves fired US Attorney. US District Judge for the District of Columbia Gladys Kessler, a Clinton appointee, has re-issued an order prohibiting DC Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey from releasing any more phone lists of her Pamela Martin & Associates customers. Secrecy of the phone records has been a priority for DC Assistant US Attorney William Cowden. Palfrey released her 10 years of customer phone records to ABC's "20/20" before Kessler's March order prohibiting such a release took effect. As WMR reported, ABC and Disney, under pressure from the Bush White House, killed the story and stated that there were no "newswirthy" names on the Madam's list. WMR has been informed by three well-placed sources that Vice President Dick Cheney, while a part-time resident of McLean, Virginia and while serving as Halliburton's CEO, was a customer of the DC Madam.
The focus on the DC Hookergate story has now moved to Baltimore, and the firing by the Justice Department in December 2004 of the US Attorney for Maryland, Thomas DiBiagio. DiBiagio was fired, along with a number of other US attorneys, after George W. Bush's re-election for political reasons. One of DiBiagio's public corruption targets was the staff of then-Republican Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich, some of whom had engaged the services of Madam Palfrey's escorts. The US Attorney's office in Baltimore first became involved in the investigation of the prostitution ring after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office and IRS agent Troy Burrus in Baltimore made a criminal referral to the US Attorney's office in Baltimore. Subsequently, an asset seizure warrant for Palfrey's assets was issued. Palfrey and her employees used two telephones in Maryland for their escort business, 301 231-5800 in Rockville, near some of the "mansions" in Potomac, Maryland and Great Falls, Virginia described by "20/20" as the locations in DC where Pamela Martin escorts would pay calls, and 410 244-1818 in Baltimore.
After Ehrlich complained to then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey about the aggressiveness of DiBiagio, the Baltimore-based US Attorney was placed on the firing list in the wake of the 2004 election. David Margolis, an Associate Deputy Attorney General, claimed he did not know about any investigations of Ehrlich's staff by DiBiagio when he informed the number one Justice Department official in Baltimore that the Justice Department had lost confidence in his abilities.
DiBiagio had already witnessed the brutal murder of his Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Luna in December 2003. A husband and father of two, Luna had departed in his vehicle, strangely leaving his cell phone on his desk at his office, and drove a circuitous route through Delaware, New Jersey, and then Pennsylvania before he was found in a creek near the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Denver, PA stabbed to death 36 times, supposedly with his own pen knife. Federal authorities leaned toward a suicide but local investigators treated the death as a homicide. In 2004, DiBiagio claimed he was being pressured to stop his investigation of Ehrlich's staff for links to gambling (particularly the gambling interests of jailed Maryland/DC GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff), prostitution, and other corruption and filed a threat report with the FBI. The Washington Post and Washington Times then reported that Luna was fearful that DiBiagio was going to fire him, which led to Luna's "suicide." It is a charge DiBiagio strongly denied. DiBiagio told the New York Times that the pressure from Ehrlich's office and the Justice Department served "to intimidate my office and shut down the investigations." Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin has asked for an investigation of DiBiagio's firing.
Luna's death on December 4, 2003 was followed a few days later, on December 10, 2003, by the indictment of Maryland State Police Superintendent Ed Norris for using his Executive Protective Unit (EPU), the unit that protects the Governor of Maryland and other state VIPs, to transport prostitutes to various locations, including posh Baltimore and New York City hotels, including the Baltimore Hyatt. Like Palfrey, Norris also came under investigation for tax evasion by the Baltimore IRS office. ABC's 20/20 reported that Madam Palfrey's escorts were also driven to expensive Washington hotels, including the Hay-Adams. Palfrey, herself, has suggested that some of her escorts may have been linked to the case of jailed California Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham, Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc., and Shirlington Limousine. The limousine service was, according to investigators, involved in transporting escorts to the Watergate and Capitol Hill's Westin Grand Hotel.
The murder of Luna and the firing of DiBiagio eliminated the threat that the well-heeled customers of the DC/Baltimore prostitution ring, many of them GOP stalwarts, would be exposed prior to the December 2004 presidential election. The attempt by Justice prosecutors and Judge Kessler to limit the criminal case to Palfrey continues the effort to punish the DC Madam and her employees and divert attention away from the customers. In May 2004, at the same time Norris and his chief of staff agreed to a plea deal in the prostitution case and received light semtences, Palfrey came under intense federal investigation. Palfrey claims that she is being scapegoated by the very same people who were her customers.
This past January, after being exposed by the media as running an escort, Brandy Britton, a PhD and former Associate Professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus was found hanging in her home in Ellicott City, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. Britton's home had been foreclosed after she was charged with running a prostitution service using the name "Alexis" and has since been identified from Palfrey's phone lists as one of the Pamela Martin & Associates escorts. Palfrey used the name "Julia." The Bush administration, clearly concerned about a sex scandal that will bring down more than just former Assistant Secretary of State Randall Tobias, is hoping to keep the focus on "Julia" and her employees, and not on "Backseat."