Accused Madam Reveals No New Clients – “These were not cheap women”

Published: May 4, 2007
Filed at 11:58 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — A woman accused of running a Washington-area prostitution ring detailed her business in a highly anticipated TV interview Friday night but identified no new well-known clients.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey supplied the ABC newsmagazine ”20/20” with 46 pounds of phone records from her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, in hopes that its investigation would ferret out clients who would testify that they did not have sex with the women Palfrey employed.

Some of the phone records could be tracked to prominent business executives, NASA officials, at least five military officers and exclusive neighborhood mansions, according to the ABC report. But there were no members of Congress or White House officials traced through Palfrey’s records, the network reported.

Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., is charged in federal court with racketeering and money laundering associated with prostitution. She said she ran the business, Pamela Martin and Associates, from her laundry room, and that the women who worked for her signed contracts in which they promised not to have sex with clients. (*interesting running her business from her laundry room.  How appropriate, laundry room=dirty laundry*)  ”These were not cheap women.  These were very nice women who just needed to make a few extra dollars,” Palfrey said.

Palfrey did identify one of her escorts, a former university professor who committed suicide after being charged with prostitution.

Palfrey maintained the business was legitimate.

”I was selling fantasy sex,” Palfrey said.

The Washington escort service carried out its business undetected at some of the city’s most exclusive hotels, she said. The service charged a flat rate of $275 for 90 minutes, she said.

The most prominent client of Palfrey’s business was senior State Department official Randall Tobias, (*please see the initial post regarding Tobias*)

Tobias has said he obtained massages (*yeah right, I suppose he tried marijuana but didn’t inhale either*) but denied having sex with the escorts.

In court papers last month and again in Friday’s interview, Palfrey named Harlan Ullman, known as an author of the ”shock and awe” combat strategy, as a regular customer. Ullman’s attorney, Marc Mukasey, said Friday before the interview aired that Palfrey should not assume that Ullman will give helpful testimony on her behalf. He declined to elaborate.

On Thursday, a lawyer for Palfrey said an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy was one of the service’s escorts and ABC reported that a secretary at a prominent law firm was another escort.

Montgomery Blair Sibley, Palfrey’s civil attorney, confirmed a report in the Navy Times that an academy instructor worked as an independent contractor for Palfrey’s service. Sibley said he didn’t know whether the person is still at the academy.

An academy spokeswoman said she had no information about Sibley’s claim.

ABC said a legal secretary at the Akin Gump law firm was suspended after telling her bosses that she had been secretly working as one of Palfrey’s escorts. ABC did not name the woman, who told Akin Gump she expects to be a government witness in the case.

Palfrey told ABC that most of her escorts worked for her because they needed the money (*well damn, you could have knocked me over with that statement*). Palfrey said she urged the women who answered her newspaper and phone book ads to think seriously before signing up.

”Many of these girls had never done this kind of work before,” Palfrey said.

Palfrey said some of the most popular women were in their 50s. She said that there was never an age limit, and that most of the women worked about three shifts a week, ending each night at 11 p.m.

”I made sure they either worked or went to school in the daytime,” she said. (*Well now isn’t that sweet, what a wonderful “mother hen” she was.  So protective of her “nighttime” girls*)

Palfrey, who was sentenced to 18 months in a California prison in 1991 after pleading guilty to attempted pimping, said she rejected an offer in the current case to plead guilty to reduced charges in return for a four-month prison term.

Palfrey and the Internet radio station will auction tapes of five one-hour interviews with her next week, The Washington Post reported Friday. Bids will start at $5,000. (*and the proceeds will go to????*)

The station’s president, Chris Murch, declined to disclose details of the contract to the newspaper but said Palfrey will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to charity.  (*Ah, there we go, charity…..mmm, wonder if that could be “sweet charity”?*)

* my inserted comments*

Information: The New York Times

The man who sued his dry-cleaner for $65,500,000…(do pants cost that much?)

It is people like this man and the others that are included in this article that makes me what to scream.  Yet we can’t put the full blame on the people as the rest of the blame has to lay on the shoulders of the judicial system that allows such ridiculous settlements to exist. 

As a tax payer, to know that my money is going toward paying a jury that actually comes up with the agreement of a settlement of such outlandish amounts I’m furious.  I don’t know what can be done or how we can stop it but I sure as hell would love to find a way. 

Of course we can’t forget the sleazy lawyers who get clients to sue, except in this judge’s case.  I hate to think what court cases this judge handles but I know one thing I hope he loses not only his case but “his pants” and “his robe”.  He should be brought before the “ABA” and properly punished as a disgrace to the profession.  What kind of a roll model does he set not only among his peers but for anyone who appears in his court as well let alone his family and friends if he has any left….

Hell, my next question is, if I cut myself with a knife I purchased either online or from a local store, can I sue the merchant, the manufacturer?  Also if I bought it online, let’s say from “eBay”, can I sue them too, after all they allowed the product to be sold through their service.   

Ok, I’ve ranted on enough, on with the article…..

The man who sued his dry-cleaner for $65,500,000… (and other weird tales from the litigation front line of America)
By Andrew Buncombe
Published: 03 May 2007

There was a scene of quiet but efficient activity inside Custom Cleaners.

Staff at the rear were busily sorting out piles of garments while at the front of the store, the owner Soo Chung and her husband Jin, were dealing with customers with clothes to be cleaned and pressed. Mrs Chung gave a smile but she did not appear to be very happy. “We have a big problem,” she told The Independent yesterday morning. “A big problem.”

To be precise the Chungs are facing a $65m (£33m) problem in the form of a lawsuit regarding a pair of trousers belonging to a judge that the couple allegedly misplaced. $65m just for a simple pair of grey trousers?, one might gasp incredulously. The Chungs would share such bewilderment. If they were in the mood for levity – and they are not – they might say they were being taken to the cleaners.

“They are good people,” said the couple’s lawyer, Christopher Manning. “The Chungs have suffered both emotionally and physically [as a result of this lawsuit]. They are unable to sleep, they are very stressed. They are even considering moving back to South Korea.” He added: “They came here seeking the American dream but Roy Pearson has made it an American nightmare.”

Roy Pearson is the man behind this unlikely lawsuit, that hints at the lunacy that sometimes grips the litigation process in this most litigious of countries. Mr Pearson is a regular customer of the Chungs’ dry-cleaning business, located between an off-licence and a Chinese take-away in a strip mall in east Washington, but moreover, Mr Pearson knows a thing or two about the law; he is an administrative judge with the city authorities.

The twisting tale of Mr Pearson’s missing trousers began in the spring of 2005 when he had been appointed to his current position and was about to take up his position on the bench. According to court papers filed by Mr Pearson, he discovered that five Hickey Freeman suits that he took out of his cupboard were “uncomfortably tight”.

He asked the Chungs to do some alterations on the waistbands of the trousers, asking them to let them out by two or three inches. He decided he would take them in for alteration one at a time. Mr Pearson claims that when he took in the grey trousers with red stripes for the $10.50 alteration on 3 May 2005, he was told they would be ready for him to wear when he started work on 6 May. But on 5 May they were not ready to be picked up and when he called back the following morning he was told that the trousers had been misplaced. The loss of the trousers and his inability to wear them for his first proud day in court caused him “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort”, claims Mr Pearson.

The Chungs, who have had their business for 12 years, agreed to compensate Mr Pearson for his loss, offering first $3,000 and then $4,600. Mr Pearson declined such offers and the Chungs raised their offer to $12,000, many times more than the $800 Mr Pearson says he paid for the trousers. But the judge even refused that amount. Instead he used his knowledge of the city’s statutes to come up with the eye-watering compensation claim that has led observers to claim that the case reveals some of the worst aspects of the US litigation system and highlights the need for urgent reform.

Mr Pearson based his $65,462,500 claim on two signs that the Chungs had hung inside their dry-cleaning store. One of the signs read “Satisfaction Guaranteed” while the other said “Same-Day Service”. Based on these signs Mr Pearson has argued that he is entitled to $1,500 per violation – that is $1,500 for each of the 120 days that the two signs were in the Chungs’ store. (He is also multiplying each violation by three because he is suing Mr and Mrs Chung and their son.) He has added to that $500,000 for “emotional damages” and $542,500 in legal fees, even though he is representing himself. And in an ingenious way to get even more money out of the Chungs, he has asked for $15,000 to cover the cost of hiring a rental car at weekends for the next 10 years. He bases this final element of his sought-for compensation package on the argument that having shown themselves to be unreliable, the Chungs have forced him to drive to an alternative dry-cleaners to take care of his weekly laundry needs for the foreseeable future.

The case of the $65m lawsuit has gripped the legal world of Washington, where lawyers are as commonplace as politicians, and has been seized on by a multitude of bloggers, most of whom appear to believe Mr Pearson is acting a little oddly. But the Chungs see nothing funny about their predicament.

“It’s not humorous, not funny and nobody would have thought that something like this would have happened,” Mrs Chung told ABC News. “I would have never thought it would have dragged on this long. I don’t want to live here anymore. It’s been so difficult. I just want to go home, go back to Korea.”

Her husband said: “It’s affecting us first of all financially, because of all the lawyers’ fees. For two years, we’ve been paying lawyer fees… we’ve gotten bad credit as well, and secondly, it’s been difficult, mentally and physically, because of the level of stress. I’ve been in the dry-cleaning business for 14 years, but this has never ever happened before – if anything happened to our customers’ clothing we would always compensate them accordingly and fairly.”

Campaigners have demanded action. The American Tort Reform Association (Atra) has written to city officials asking them to consider whether Mr Pearson has the appropriate “judicial temperament” for his job.

“The District’s consumer protection act and many others in states across the country are well-intentioned but loosely worded,” said Atra’s president, Sherman Joyce. “Judge Pearson’s lawsuit appears to be a somewhat typical, if wholly outrageous example of the exploitation such laws are increasingly subject to these days.” Yet with still no agreement between Mr Pearson and the Chungs, the case is due in court next month. Mr Pearson has said he intends to call 63 witnesses to support his case.

At Custom Cleaners, the Chungs go about their normal business and their customers keep coming with their clothes. “Oh, is this the place? I saw it on the news,” said one regular, who declined to be named, as she left the store yesterday. “It sounds like this man [Mr Pearson] wants to make some money.” The final twist to the story of Mr Pearson’s misplaced trousers is that – according to the Chungs – they turned up a few days after they went missing. Mr Pearson denies they are the same pair of trousers but the Chungs and their lawyer, Mr Manning, are adamant. Mr Manning said the trousers were currently being held in a place of “safe keeping”.

The woman who sued… McDonald’s for $2.7m

Perhaps America’s most notorious personal injury suit was launched by Stella Liebeck, an 81-year-old former department store assistant from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who sued McDonald’s in 1994 for serving its coffee too hot.

Liebeck’s injuries were certainly genuine – she had third-degree burns on her groin, thighs and buttocks where she spilled her coffee – but the punitive damages she was awarded, $2.7m, struck much of the country as excessive to the point of absurdity. Many McDonald’s customers bought the coffee precisely because they liked it hot. The award was lowered to $480,000 on appeal.

The wife who… got ‘sales rage’ and then sued for $600,000

In 2002, Carolyn Wells from Tennessee got into a fight with another customer at the after-Christmas sales at the J C Penney department store. Her reaction was to sue the store for $600,000 claiming that J C Penney was responsible for the injuries she sustained during the scuffle. Her husband, Robert, also sued the store, claiming loss of her earnings, service and company. He also sued for loss of “consortium” – a delightful legal term for sex. The argument revolved around two crystal bear figurines. The Tennessee court of appeals dismissed the case saying that retail stores could not be held responsible for the “cut-throat arena of after-Christmas bargain shopping”.

The man who sued… ‘Jackass’ for $10m

In 2002, a man from Hot Springs, Montana, sued the media conglomerate Viacom for $10m claiming that its hit television show Jackass, subsequently turned into a movie, plagiarised his name and defamed his good character.

The plaintiff’s legal name was, indeed, Jack Ass, a moniker he had acquired five years earlier in an effort, he said, to draw attention to the dangers of drunk driving. (“Be a smart ass, not a dumb ass” was one of his slogans.) The man, who was born Bob Croft, acted as his own counsel. It is not clear whether the case ever made it to court.

The man who sued… a strip club for $100,000

In 1996, Bennie Casson of Belleville, Illinois, demanded $100,000 in compensation from a strip club after a dancer slammed her remarkably large breasts into his head causing what he described as a “bruised, contused, lacerated neck”.

Susan Sykes, known by her stage name Busty Hart, boasted an 88-inch chest which supposedly caused him “emotional distress, mental anguish and indignity”. The suit made Casson a laughing stock, and his case ground to a halt after one lawyer dropped out and he realised he could not afford another.

Three years later, he shot himself in the head.

The woman who sued… her employers for $2.7m

A convenience store worker in West Virginia won $2.7m in punitive damages after she injured her back opening a pickle jar in 1997. Cheryl Vandevender claimed she had been mistreated by her employers over a long period and was forced to lift heavy objects even after it was clear it was causing her medical distress. But a state Supreme Court judge, Spike Maynard, called the award an “outrageous sum” and had it reduced by half a million