May 5, 2008 at 18:02:44
Love Connection? Abramoff and the D.C. Madam
by Roger Shuler
Recent days have brought two major justice-related stories. Could they be connected? Let's take a look.
First came a guilty plea from former Justice Department official Robert Coughlin on conflict-of-interest charges connected to disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Then came word that Deborah Jeane Palfrey, better known as the D.C. Madam, had apparently committed suicide at her mother's home in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
In Legal Times splendid account of the Coughlin plea, an e-mail exchange between two Abramoff lobbyists is cited. The lobbyists are Kevin Ring and Padgett Wilson, and Ring is telling Wilson about a celebration to honor Justice Department officials who helped bring home $16 million for an Abramoff client, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. "Come to the show, baby," Couglin says. Here is how Wilson responds:
"Are there any tickets left?" asked Wilson, now director of governmental affairs for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. He then submitted: "And as for those DOJ staffers, those guys should get anything they want for the rest of the time they are in office -- opening day tickets, Skins v. Giants, oriental massages, hookers, whatever."
So there you have it: One Abramoff associate indicating to another that prostitutes are to be part of the pay off for Justice Department officials who further the sleazy Team Abramoff cause.
Then a few days later, we learn that Ms. Palfrey, who ran one of the most well known high-end prostitution services in the D.C. area, is found hanging in a shed behind her mother's mobile home.
Does this prove that Palfrey's death was something other than a suicide, which is the official version from Tampa-area law enforcement? No. But could a reasonable mind take these two events and ask, "Is this one heck of a coincidence--the public learns that Abramoff lackies evidently were plying Justice Department officials with hookers and then a few days later one of the D.C. areas most renowned practitioners of the prostitution trade is found dead?"
Time magazine was first out with a story saying Palfrey had discussed the possibility of suicide with a writer named Dan Moldea. "She wasn't going to jail, she told me that very clearly," Moldea said. "She told me she would commit suicide."
But Moldea's account does not square with Palfrey's own words. One Web site presents audio of Palfrey saying she would not commit suicide and that she probably would be a victim of a murder made to look like a suicide.
The Coughlin case also brings to mind the case of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned after getting nabbed in a prostitution-related investigation. Is anyone investigating the possibility that Team Abramoff, and their "friendlies" in the Justice Department, violated federal law regarding the transport of prostitutes over state lines? That's apparently what got Spitzer into doo-doo. What about folks in the Justice Department, the very organization that led the Spitzer organization?
A major theme of the Bush Justice Department scandal has to do with double standards. Actions that become federal crimes when "committed" by a Democrat are ignored when committed by Republicans, or people associated with GOP supporters.
Could a serious investigation into the Coughlin case and the D.C. madam suicide unearth evidence of a particularly noxious double standard?
Here is something else to keep in mind regarding the D.C. madam death: Hanging is a fairly unusual form of suicide for a woman. According to statistics at suicide.org, the two most common methods of suicide for women, by far, are poisons (overdosing, etc.) at 37.8 percent and firearms at 32.4 percent. Hanging, strangulation, and suffocation are grouped together and come in third at 19.7 percent. But if we can assume that true hanging makes up only one-third of that group, it seems that only a little more than 6 percent of female suicides use the method found in the D.C. Madam case.
Note: In our first post on the Coughlin matter, we noted that one news source had identified Coughlin as a member of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section and that he had been involved in the Paul Minor prosecution in Mississippi. A source close to the Minor case tell us that the quote that led to that report was misunderstood. Our source says Coughlin apparently was not part of the Public Integrity Section and had no role in the Minor prosecution.