August 28th, 2007
10:42 AM ET
15 years ago

Alleged 'D.C. Madam' wants to fire second defense attorney

Alleged 'DC Madam' Deborah Jeane Palfrey

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The alleged "D.C. madam" who is accused of running a high-dollar prostitution ring around the nation's capital is asking a federal judge to dismiss a prominent attorney the court had appointed to replace a public defender in her criminal case.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey wants to represent herself with the help of a lawyer who is representing her in a civil case but is not licensed to practice criminal law in Washington. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler takes up the request Tuesday at a status hearing.

But prosecutors filed court papers Monday opposing what Palfrey calls "hybrid representation," since the attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, cannot directly defend his client against criminal charges.

A grand jury indicted Palfrey March 1 on money laundering and racketeering charges in connection with her former business - Pamela Martin & Associates escort service. She pleaded not guilty to the charges on March 2.

Sibley is representing Palfrey in a civil suit against several women who once worked for her firm. He is known for helping peddle to the media thousands of pages of telephone records with numbers of clients her business had called.

One of the numbers belonged to U.S. Senator David Vitter. When the link was revealed earlier this summer, the Louisiana Republican said calls with Palfrey's firm were made prior to his election to the Senate in 2004, and that he and his wife had already dealt with what he termed a "serious sin" privately, through marriage counseling and confession to a Roman Catholic priest.

Vitter is the first lawmaker entangled in the case, although State Department official Randall Tobias resigned in May after confirming he patronized Palfrey's business.

Palfrey's most recent criminal attorney has been Preston Burton, whose high-profile clients have included Monica Lewinsky, Aldridge Ames, and Robert Hanssen. Burton is also a former assistant U.S. attorney in Washington.

A judge earlier granted Palfrey's request to dismiss public defender A.J. Kramer. In both requests she cited "irreconcilable differences." Burton declined to elaborate when CNN asked for details.

Palfrey hopes to show that her business was a legitimate, legal escort service for clients during a period of more than a dozen years.

- CNN's Paul Courson

Filed under: D.C. Madam
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