Florida police made public two notes handwritten by Deborah Jeane Palfrey this weekend, touching off debate on whether her hanging was in fact suicide or staged to look so. At least one reporter is claiming the DC Madam mentioned she'd kill herself before returning to prison, but another interviewer has aired recent audio of Palfrey warning that if she was found dead, it would be murder.
Initial reports of Palfrey's death conclusively ruled it a suicide, a bit hasty considering the magnitude of the sensitive secrets she held. I first heard the news on an NPR broadcast Thursday afternoon which included an official's soundbyte on how relatives are victimized in suicides, a strange generalization that pointed blame at Palfrey for hurting her own mother before any other details of the case were released. This statement was attached to the breaking news by an "imbedded pundit", only raising suspicion of media manipulation in the earliest going.
Any intelligent debate is impossible with this lack of detail available so far. We're told the letters were penned a few days before her body was discovered hanged in her mother's shed, left on a nearby motel stand, though we don't know when investigators first saw them. Police say relatives confirmed her handwriting, but we know virtually nothing about their opinion on the letters, her physical condition or other clues. We are not told whether the shed or hotel room was forensically examined. Her autopsy was conducted quietly and quickly, though a final report is due this week after toxicology results come in.
Palfrey's note used a number of clichéd expressions, strangely including "modern day lynching", referring to the extremely selective enforcement that found her guilty in federal court and a darkly ironic reference to her impending manner of death.
In the note to her sister, she writes "With complete certainty, I believe Dad is standing watch - prepared to guide me into the light". Only a close relation would know if this echoed her true feelings and beliefs, or if the statement was coded to signal a forced hand.
Among Palfrey's known clients were current Louisiana Senator Vitter, former AIDS Czar Randall Tobias, Dick Morris and military-industrial wonk Harlan Ullman, but Dick Cheney's McLean, VA phone number, reported earlier was summarily un-reported after a turnaround by ABC News.
ABC anchor Sam Donaldson has also been a rumored client, along with a law partner of Rudy Giuliani, associates of Jack Abramoff and many more Pentagon, DC and corporate insiders on a list of over 10,000 numbers.
According to early accounts, ABC News correspondent Brian Ross had the exclusive scoop because Palfrey turned over years-long call lists for his staff to verify. After Cheney turned up on the list, the story, already on the ABC website and poised to run on 20/20, suddenly went away.
No explanation has been offered as to why ABC reversed itself. Any mention of Cheney was scrubbed from their website and the 20/20 piece never ran. Vitter and Tobias had already admitted whoring, so the mainstream press continues to carry the DC Madam story without mentioning Cheney, excepting DC blogsman Wayne Madsen, who says his reporting is corroborated by multiple sources, all but daring Cheney to sue. The trial's verdict received little coverage and a scheduled Vitter was never subpoaened.
Then, going into to a weekend news cycle we heard about the hanging, presented as a suicide from the first mention with no investigation. The public was left bereft of details - was it a full autopsy and inquest? Witness statements? Did the Madam check out without leaving behind anything critical of those who hounded her? No mentions left behind about the DOJ Attorney fired after investigating her case?
So we've seen the handwritten notes, but many questions remain. Can Brian Ross (now elevated in the ABC ranks) answer the most basic inquiries about the DC Madam story that never was?
We will, if Brian Ross' can say the words "journalistic integrity" while looking in a mirror. Mr. Ross may wonder himself if Palfrey's death was self-inflicted or a torturous murder, but as long as he withholds the secrets of the ABC/DC johns, I'd wager he's safe from harm. Hint to Mr. Ross: If you need to get a message to your old journalism professors, just say "They made me sign a non-disclosure agreement".
Tarpon Springs authorities could also be instrumental in divulging to the public whether government officials commandeered or influenced their work in any way.