In publishing his tome, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, Indiana-based researcher Matt Janovic documents pervasive corruption, zany paranoia culture and desperate legal harassment. Although he had a list of prostitutes, servicing the capital region’s elites, employed by Jeane Palfrey, former Johns were “going after all of them,” he says, “to shut them up.” For 13 years Ms. Palfrey was able to sell sex to thousands of D.C. clients, including politicians, and well-compensated defense and intelligence contractors.
The Johns’ attempts to shut up their prostitutes worked, far more than the prostitutes’ fear of their own criminal liability. Mr. Janovic, along with the rest of the team working for the cause of defending Ms. Palfrey, “couldn’t find [the former prostitutes].”
Following D.C. Federal Judge Gladys Kessler’s having obtained in late 2007 subpoena power over various law enforcement and intelligence agencies in connection to Ms. Palfrey’s case, Judge Kessler was replaced by Judge James Robertson, who subsequently quashed that subpoena power. “All of a sudden,” says Mr. Janovic, “Judge Kessler is replaced without any explanation, nothing.” It was at this time, he says, that Ms. Palfrey threatened, in front of defense counsel Montgomery Sibley, to kill herself. The author speculates that a suicide threat even in front of Judge Kessler may have been the reason for her replacement.
Mr. Janovic makes clear that he hates conspiracy nuts. These peddlers of fear, he says, are “incredibly irresponsible, dishonest with themselves and everybody.” Their distrust of absolutely all parties to everything, says the author via phone, is “intellectually lazy,” adding that their unhealthy distrust is a “cop-out.” He thinks their basic view of the world is, “like, ‘well, if I don’t have to be a responsible citizen I can just go running to irrationality.’” This is the reason that, despite prostitution ring operator Jeane Palfrey’s radio show assurances that she would not commit suicide, he was entirely certain that her suicide was not the product of any foul play whatsoever.
But after her being investigated for fraud by the Postal Service, and informants turning on her multimillion-dollar sex ring — and receiving numerous, spurious legal threats, intended to intimidate him into silence — Matt Janovic, a former researcher for Ms. Palfrey, has still come to the conclusion that there are practical and ethical limits to unhinged distrust. The Postal Service busted Ms. Palfrey twice in the early ’90s for money laundering. He says, “I was getting the fake cease-and-desists for a while, but now they’ve halted because the book is out,” adding that letter writers were “just trying to fake me out and intimidate me into not putting the book out . . . If anything they emboldened me to do it.”
The evidence that Ms. Palfrey hung herself, as his book’s maccabre cover makes clear, is her “making comments that were filled with absolutes: ‘I will not serve one more day in prison;’ ‘they’re not getting one penny of my money;’ ‘I’m getting it all back.’” Because the “D.C. Madam,” as the press would advertise her, killed herself before sentencing, the government was not able to keep as many of her assets, of which her estate eventually received the majority.
Mr. Janovic’s skill as a researcher, apparent to her by his early comments on the case, made it unnecessary for him to solicit his considerable talents. She hired him directly. The author thinks, in addition to his own blogging, that that philosophical coinage of Sun-Tzu, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” also informed her decision to hire him.
“She contacts me after I write these observations, maybe a month after. I think about a week after she contacts me, she starts making comments about suicide. And we started talking about one of her former escorts, Brandy Britton. She was a sociology professor at the University of Maryland. And [Ms. Britton] killed herself the same way. And [Ms. Palfrey] said in an email . . . June 20, 2007, ‘oh, I’ve thought many times of killing myself but apparently I’m a tougher nut than [Ms. Britton] was.’”
In February 2008 Ms. Palfrey sent an email to Jason Leopold and Mr. Janovic’s co-researcher, carbon-copying Mr. Janovic, “kind of like, ‘OK, I want you to bear witness to this.’” While Truthout’s own Mr. Leopold tried to reassure her of her odds in the federal investigation, she responded nonetheless with, “Jason… let’s put it like this, the bastards aren’t going to take me alive.” She struggled with the idea of doing only three years in jail, daresay the far longer, bluffing sentences tossed before her by federal prosecutors.
Additionally she made other statements to Mr. Janovic that made him suspect she was on the way self-down — suicidal themes pervading her conversations with the author of this 600-page tell-all. Mr. Janovic relays the story of an acquaintance who met Ms. Palfrey in Florida, the operator of a straightforward escort service, who saw Ms. Palfrey taking anti-depressents, “very casually, popping [them] in front of her.” Ms. Palfrey eventually overdosed on anti-depressants to ensure that she could not be revived following her own hanging. The author says, “She was drugging herself to keep her head on.”
For 10 months after June 2007, the author of Let the Dead Bury the Dead was deeply frightened of an upcoming suicide on the part of Ms. Palfrey, whose clients included Senator David Vitter (R-LA), former USAID Administrator Randall Tobias, political consultant Jack Berkman, and political analyst Dick Morris. Regulars included Mr. Morris, Sen. Vitter, and former Naval Commander Harlan Ullman, author of the Iraq War’s “shock and awe” doctrine, which called for “overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze an adversary’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.”
Mr. Janovic says, laughing,”Some of the girls complained about him having problems with bathing hygiene and that he was abusive emotionally.”
Of particular frustration to Mr. Janovic is the continuing power of client Jack Burkman, a former lobbyist for James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign strategist. The author writes in Chapter Eight:
[Mr.] Burkman was provided supporting fire (cover) by the mainstream press. They let him off the hook completely when it was blatantly obvious that he was in the phone records; published the finding at that time. But the mainstream media can ignore that when it has to, and it did. They wouldn’t touch it.
The Associated Press and ABC’s Brian Ross, says the author in his Internet Chronicle phone interview, “stayed as far away from the true nature of the case as they possibly could.” If Jack Burkman’s claims that he denied to mainstream media sources having purchased sex can be believed, the author blames those (unknown) sources for having taken Mr. Burkman at his word. Gawker, says Mr. Janovic, pulled several links down relating to Mr. Burkman’s own, other sexual foibles, specifically an account two lesbian women posted to a MySpace page, claiming that Mr. Burkman offered them a thousand dollars to have sex in front of him. Mr. Burkman threatened the two women legally, and they pulled the tale. The two had a scan of Mr. Burkman’s business card, which he offered them.
One commenter on Mr. Janovic’s blog, an NPR employee who spoke to the author from her place of work, spoke to the author of dating Mr. Burkman. Mr. Janovic says her story jives with that of the two women from MySpace.
As to why Sen. Vitter escaped the scandal without prosecution, and with re-election, Mr. Janovic blames U.S. attorneys kowtowing to those who place them in power. The author considers these attorneys and assistant attorneys “handlers and fixers” for senators, who “clean up their messes for them.” Sen. Vitter, says the author, had a “favorite” prostitute at Pamela Martin & Associates, who the feds “put on ice,” into protection.
The escort agency’s subpoenaed Verizon phone records, to which the author was privy, he says, are “the smoking gun for Hookergate.” Included in the phone records “was even the archbishop of D.C.” Ms. Palfrey would tell the author that other clients of Pamela Martin & Associates included Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and then Halliburton CEO and future Vice President Dick Cheney.
“She also mentioned Fred Thompson,” says Mr. Janovic. “And then,” he starts to say with a laugh, “– and this is interesting because I started writing about it. You know, I actually started writing about it after she was dead. And then lo and behold I start getting on his mailing list in my email box.” The former senator was at the time launching what would be an ill-fated campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination.