Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Former AUSA Allison Leotta writes a novel including elements of the DC Madam narrative

Not so very long ago, I signed up for Google news updates on Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Most of the updates have been articles simply invoking her name so that the site posting it got more hits, but nothing of any substance. Mission accomplished on both counts. This is just one more example of suited turds making a living off of air. The National Law Journal published an interview with former DC AUSA (Asst. US Attorney) Allison Leotta on June 11th. 

Leotta's a professional woman (it's unclear to me at this stage whether she's married or not) who left her secure, good paying job (benes too) of over a decade as a federal prosecutor of sex crimes and domestic violence cases in the District of Columbia to pursue a literature. Hell, I'm sure I write better than her, but never would I have the temerity to refer to what I write as that. And, sure, right, we all do that in the middle of the biggest economic crises in American history, we do an abrupt career change that would wreck the average working person's life--and believe me, I know the dynamics of this, I cannot be shitted about it. But no, there were no silver spoons there whatsoever--not even her getting into Harvard, all bootstraps, a Horatio Alger wet dream fantasy--and even if it's not true, it sounds good on an author's bio and resume. Did I mention that her very first novel was with a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster? Keep in mind here that on average it takes two years simply to get the chance to speak with a genuine literary agent, so forget it mom and pop, self-publish if you ever want that pet project to see the light of day, or to ever get paid.

Somehow, I don't think Leotta's ever going to have worry about either. Fixers get that assistance, and that's a huge part of the job being a federal prosecutor in DC.

What's the point of all of this? She worked in the same offices as the DC Madam's prosecutors and considers one of them a "good friend," which says it all for me at least.  I'll get to who that friend is in a moment. OK, so former minor Inquisitor writes a first thriller for Simon & Scheister, must have sold well, or she still knows the right people, and she's got another one being made from shattered forests somewhere. I've never read her writing, but it's unlikely that a cop lover or a prosecutor is going to write something as good as a Hammett short or novel, ain't gonna happen, wrong side of the tracks. I don't see Leotta ever making the hard choices he made, ever, not really. That, after all, would require genuine conviction that doesn't come easy, no pats on the back, much of a wrong-headed society disagreeing with you--doing the right thing is rarely ever rewarded. Luckily, her bank account will never have to worry about this. Do I have to point out to the reader that she's part of a monstrous criminal justice system that's used to solve social problems mainly through punishment, the wrong way, not proactively? Maybe in her next incarnation she can drive the trains to the new death camps, maybe sell whiskey to the next unfortunates who get their land stolen from them...

So, she's writing a novel that contains some elements of the DC Madam case, because she was "following it closely," which would have been pretty easy working in the same offices with the AUSAs that were on the case, like Daniel Butler, Catherine Connelly, William Cowden, other delusional assholes, yadda-yadda, and their interim appointed boss, Jeffrey A. Taylor. Her novel drops on July 3rd, so rush out and get it before the system she protected in her job takes a crap and dies, finally, belatedly, out of all of the contradictions created by power relationships and an abundance of cowards in these here U-nited States. The novel is going to be titled Discretion, which at least makes sense when you're covering a prostitution ring. Someone's going to have to remind me about this book an hour from now, I'm already forgetting it. Yes folks, ascendant police states produce writing outside of the standard government forms, it's true, behold it yourself on July 3rd.

Leotta has created an alter-ego of a prosecutor in the character Anna Curtis...oh, never mind, here's what they said about the DC Madam in the interview that garnered a solid plug for the upcoming membrane of cellulose:

The remarks below have been edited for length and clarity.

The National Law Journal: This is your second novel, both involving a fictional federal prosecutor of sex crimes in D.C. Your first book, Law of Attraction, focused on a domestic-violence case. This novel delves more into the uniquely political world of D.C. Why did you decide to center your second book in this part of D.C.?

Allison Leotta: Part of it was I'd seen this really interesting case that happened around the time I was writing Law of Attraction. It was the D.C. Madam case — a woman in D.C. running a large-scale, high-end escort agency, and there were all these reporters speculating that her black book held names of powerful men in D.C. I was fascinated by it — by both the woman running the organization and the women who chose to work for her. They came from all different walks of life and did it for different reasons.

I was fascinated as to why they would take these risks and the effect it would have on their lives going forward. In the D.C. Madam case, she was convicted but before she was sentenced, she committed suicide. There was a lot of speculation that it wasn't suicide, but murder. That got the crime novelist side of my head thinking, "What if? How would somebody do it? Who would do it if it was really a murder?"

[The body of the accused madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, and a suicide note reportedly were found in Tarpon Springs, Fla., in 2008.]

NLJ: Did you work on the D.C. Madam case?

A.L.: Someone in the office did. She was a good friend of mine, so I was following it pretty closely. ...

That friend was Catherine Connelly, an AUSA on the case. It could be no one else. Why she didn't bother mentioning her is odd since it's in the public record and press coverage, but whatever.

Question: when is Leotta going to grab a shovel and dig Jeane up to pose for photographs? I wrote the author of the piece--Amanda Bronstad--a letter voicing my concerns, I don't expect a response, so here it is, and long to annoy the lazy reader:

date: Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 9:39 PM
subject: Leotta interviewmailed-by:

Dear Ms. Bronstad, you may publish this as a comment if you wish,

Wow, where to begin about Mrs., Leotta and her recent change in occupation.

My first question is, do accountants and plumbers write novels too, and wouldn't we also think it strange when they got a contract to release a novel through Simon & Schuster?

I haven't read her first novel; the new one isn't available as of yet, but this second novel raises some questions of ethics for me: like her AUSA friend, I was a part of the DC Madam case. That friend of hers, incidentally, is AUSA Catherine K. Connelly, and from what I read in the article she saw quite a bit firsthand. Is this why she resigned, to be able to use more of that in the novel? I don't know.  These former cops and prosecutors becoming "legal experts," talking heads more generally, media figures, celebrities, novelists, is nutty.  This mining social problems for writing fodder by people who prosecute and investigate the subjects verges on cannibalism at times, we can do better than this. We incarcerate more human beings than any nation on the earth, more even than the worst known human rights offenders like China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, etc.  Law enforcement is key to this social engineering, so to take it further into the realm of entertainment seems pretty depraved to me. Certainly this true crime mill has been running since colonial times--people are fascinated by the depravity of others. But what we're seeing here with these criminal justice professionals is unacceptable and unethical, made worse by the fact that 95% of federal criminal defendants plea out because the odds are stacked so highly against them. What you have is the society of the spectacle where anything to turn a buck is OK in the US, the only thing that matters, and the forces of production (and those who use force to keep it in place) start talking about themselves in the culture, they become foregrounded. We solve so many social problems not by proactive policy, but through our crazy lock-'em-up conveyor-belt CJ system that's based around the profit motive, like our private prison complex. Crime writing by cops and prosecutors has always been suspect in the United States. Dashielle Hammett may have worked for the Pinkertons (he quit over being tapped to assassinate a communist labor organizer in Montana), but you rarely saw him empathizing with cops, prosecutors, or corrupt politicians, and he's the top of the heap with Jim Thompson in the annals of crime writing. Poe comes first in American literature, he invented the detective story. This is a populist form--where's the populism in this? I'll have to wait and find out. However, great artistic works elicit artistic truths, highlighting the meaning of something. My expectations are low here based on some comments in the interview with Leotta.

Decades ago, it was bad enough when cops and prosecutors who were on high profile cases (like, say, John Wayne Gacy, Bundy--take your pick, but you could say this all begins with Vincent Bugliosi and his prosecution of  the Manson Family) began to resign when the cases were over, signing book deals (Palfrey herself did this, another depravity), movie & media deals, etc. This was considered beyond the pale, but now, in these crazed, depraved times, it floats without much comment if any. That's appalling. What you have is a class of law enforcement and criminal justice professionals making their little cottage industries, Leotta less so, but close.  Some of us are simply lucky enough to be on the other side of the badge in bad times. Or is it luck at all? Leotta has taken it to a new place, for me at least: someone who knows someone who was close to a big sex scandal case (DC Madam, it was far more than a mere sex scandal) is writing a novel based partly upon it, a thriller. Great. So, how did you get the writing gig? Who pulled that string, and when is Connelly doing a novel? What's her next plum position? Qualcomm/Ernst & Young with Jeffrey A. Taylor? This is careerism run completely amok, my opinion, and what's really underneath the veneer of civilization.

As you can tell, my perspective is different and adversarial to government prosecutors, hence with at least a slightly better chance at balance here! I was a researcher for the defendant, the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey. The fact that Leotta is going for the "she were suicided" theory in the novel is her right, and a curious choice that I assume has commercial considerations. At least she makes it plain that Palfrey committed suicide in the interview. As a writer of fiction, she can fuse characters, change dates, all kinds of things, but what's the angle when they're not supposed to be telling us sensitive information from a case? I assume that won't be the case in the novel at all, we won't be learning new information. You can't have it several ways: you either take some information from inside the prosecution and investigation, which is profoundly illegal, or you make it all up, maybe indirectly extrapolating on some facts. She seems to be melding other cases she did with the DC Madam narrative, or some permutation of it, since it has yet to be told coherently by anyone, fine, but when you consider what went down in the case it's distasteful. Figuring in the fact that she was close to it, if not directly involved, doesn't ring well when she refers to the member of a prosecution team that broke the law as a "friend." I applaud Mrs. Leotta for debunking CSI shows when they're wrong about procedure, glad to the point of admiration that she was working sex crime and domestic abuse cases, but I doubt that she's going to add anything of any significance to our understanding of the DC Madam scandal (which was really part of Hookergate).

I find her comment that Connelly (it couldn't be anyone else) is a good friend and that she was "following it very closely" troubling because of the clear prosecutorial misconduct that occurred in the case during the proceedings (this leaves out a procedural error made at trial by AUSA Butler that staggers.  Robertson let it slide). The most egregious of all was when they leaked an unsigned warrant-affidavit to Bill Bastone, editor of The Smoking Gun, no more than five days of the search of Palfrey's home, a felony under federal law. Where's the discussion on that? There was virtually none. I want to make it plain that I consider Palfrey's death a suicide--she was not murdered. But who benefits from that kind of a conspiracy theory? It isn't just the conspiracy theory mills, it's federal law enforcement who create the impression of an ubiquitous State that could very well resort to murder of American citizens in the confines of the Continental United States, an absurd contention in the context of the charges against her, what happened during the proceedings, and the kangaroo court trial that was conducted after some very open judge shopping was done with the replacement of Federal District Judge Gladys Kessler by FISA Court Judge James Robertson. Kessler had ruled that, indeed, this case had national security issues to it, granting the defendant broad subpoena powers over essentially the entire intelligence community. Where was the National Law Journal on this one? Excuse if I'm wrong, but I could literally research the background on this into next month and have writing my own account of what I witnessed in the case, my unique vantage.  Leotta is too coy. Why yes, you can "follow" a case "closely" when you're working in the same offices, sure, a tad cagey there, which raises questions about propriety.

As to who would have a motive to murder Palfrey in a hypothetical, that would have been former clients or even CIA assets, defense contractors, intelligence contractors (like SAIC), and so on. But that's not what happened. There were two suicide notes, one to her mother, and one to her sister.

This undignified mess is of former CJ professionals [sic] becoming part of the entertainments world is all about class: not just anyone snags a contract for a novel from Simon & Schuster, these are more revolving doors that are improper in my opinion. You have to obtain a major league literary agent, and that gets into connections. How are AUSAs appointed? Often by other appointees, all of it politicized. I don't know if that's the case with Mrs. Leotta, but you have to factor these things in, because again, this is all about class. Not everybody gets to go to Harvard, for example, and so, you know where I'm going with this. Are many of the people she's writing about from the lower depths of society? Now I'm going to have to find out and get around to reading her first novel, but it sounds like it would predominate when you're dealing with domestic violence. While she wasn't on the case with Palfrey, she would be of a higher class than the madam's background as the daughter of a grocer from the dying industrial city of Charleroi, Pennsylvania was never going to make Harvard. That's about opportunity and being part of the club. We can kid ourselves and insult everyone's intelligence, or we could admit that it really is about who you know, and always has been. I could go on and on--and have--about these issues surrounding Palfrey's case, but we'll leave it at that.

Regards, Matt Janovic, writer, private researcher

And that's that.

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