Thursday, March 31, 2016

DC Madam scandal heats up - who's on the list of phone numbers?

Rachel Maddow is covering this one as it unfolds. Here is some of Steve Benen's text.

The scandal surrounding the “D.C. Madam” may seem like old news, but if you missed last night’s show, you may not realize that this story is suddenly quite relevant again.


Deborah Jeane Palfrey ran a DC-area escort service for several years, before getting caught by the police. As part of her legal defense, Palfrey’s lawyers said they would expose the service’s client list – not by releasing a list of names, but by releasing phone records.

One of those numbers, we now know, was traced back to Louisiana’s right-wing Republican senator, David Vitter, who ran on a “family values” platform.

But there is lots more to come, possibly.

But what’s easy to forget nearly a decade later is that the matter wasn’t fully resolved: the full phone records were never released.

Palfrey was eventually convicted, and in 2008, she committed suicide. Her attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, says he’s the sole legal custodian of the escort service’s phone records, which he still has, and which he’s now eager to release.

So why doesn’t he just hold a press conference and share the materials? Because in 2007, as part of the case, a judge issued a court order, keeping those phone records under wraps.

Sibley, however, now wants to release the documents, and in fact, believes it’s in the public’s interest for him to do so. As Rachel explained last night, Sibley argued in his court filings that the materials from the D.C. Madam case “contain information relevant to the upcoming presidential election.”

In his latest filing with the Supreme Court, the lawyer added, “Time is of the essence. Given the significance of the upcoming political primaries and caucuses, in the looming Republican and Democratic conventions on July 18th and July 25th respectively, and given the impact of the presently sealed from the public record that this attorney seeks to release, upon those electoral deliberations, expedited resolution to this application is incumbent upon this court.”

Sibley went on to argue, “The delay by this court and resolution of this application in hindsight will intentionally favor one presidential candidate over others by protecting that candidate from the release of the D.C. madam phone records, which the attorney maintains are relevant to this election cycle.”

The attorney added that he may release the materials fairly soon, whether the court gives him permission or not.

It’s the kind of story that raises all kinds of questions, for which there are no publicly available answers. But as we’ve seen, the D.C. Madam scandal has already affected many lives, and its political significance was obvious when Vitter lost his gubernatorial election last fall by double digits.

All of this appears likely to play out over the next two weeks. It’s not getting a lot of media attention just yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this one.

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