McLEAN, Va. – A lawyer for alleged Washington madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey wants ABC News to disclose the identity of a federal prosecutor identified in a recent news report as a client of Palfrey's escort service.
In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Palfrey's civil lawyer, Montgomery Blair Sibley, contends that the Justice Department should compel ABC to disclose the prosecutor's identity and whether he had any role in the Palfrey investigation.
In a report Friday on its "20/20" newsmagazine, ABC News reported that a review of Palfrey's phone records revealed that her client list included officials at NASA, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, military officers and a "career Justice Department prosecutor."
But ABC did not identify those individuals, saying that their names were not prominent enough to be newsworthy.
Jeffrey Schneider, executive vice president at ABC News, said the prosecutor's name would not have been withheld if it had been a crucial element of the story.
"If we had thought his name was important, we would have named him," Schneider said.
Palfrey, 51, of Vallejo, Calif., is accused in federal court of racketeering by running an illegal prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993.
Palfrey said she gave her phone records to ABC because she did not keep a client list, and she hoped that ABC would generate names of people who could testify that they received only legal services, like massages, from her escorts.
Sibley said Monday that he and Palfrey were not disappointed that ABC withheld the names of nearly all the people it identified.
One person who was identified in the program, former Bush administration official Randall Tobias, resigned April 27 from a senior State Department post after being contacted by "20/20." He admitted using Palfrey's escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, but said he never had sex with the escorts.
Tobias previously directed international AIDS relief programs for the Bush administration that promote abstinence and require grant recipients to sign a pledge opposing prostitution.
For several months, Palfrey has been threatening to make her client list known in one form or another. Prosecutors have accused her of trying to intimidate potential witnesses by outing them publicly.
In his letter to Gonzales, Sibley said that several years of phone records were never given to ABC News and that he plans to widely distribute those records in seven days unless some sort of deal can be reached with the Justice Department. Sibley suggested in the letter that "the journalists and Internet bloggers who will receive these records have decidedly different standards than that of ABC News."
Further release of the phone records might cause conflict with a judge's order barring Palfrey from making certain disclosures. The exact scope of that order is under dispute.
Also on Monday, a judge appointed a prominent defense attorney, Preston Burton, to represent Palfrey in the criminal case. Burton was one of the lawyers who represented Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton impeachment investigation, and also represented confessed spy Robert Hanssen.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler granted a request from Palfrey to appoint a new attorney because of "irreconcilable differences" between Palfrey and her original court-appointed public defender, A.J. Kramer.