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Vitter skips stand in prostitution trial

April 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Defense attorneys spared Sen. David Vitter an embarrassing trip to the witness stand in a federal prostitution trial Monday as they rested their case without calling the Louisiana Republican.Vitter has been on notice for more than a week that he could have to appear during the trial of Deborah Palfrey. Vitter has acknowledged being involved with Palfrey's escort service and has apologized for what he called a "very serious sin." He has since avoided follow-up questions.

The trial threatened to force the first-term senator into what prosecutors had called "the hottest seat in D.C." On the witness stand, three clients testified about how they found the service, how often they called, what they were hoping for and whether they got it during their visits.

"When a man agrees to pay $250 for 90 minutes with a woman, what do most men expect in that time," prosecutor Daniel Butler said during closing arguments Monday. "In that context, it's pretty clear. Most men want sex."

Prosecutors kept Vitter off their witness list but he was named on Palfrey's defense list. It is unclear exactly what Vitter would have said to help the defense. Her previous attorney had said he wanted to question the first-term senator about what services he paid for and whether any of his visits included illegal activity.

Defense attorney Preston Burton argued that what went on during the appointments was between the client and the escort. Shortly before jurors began deliberating, he compared Palfrey to a taxi dispatcher, who shouldn't be penalized for "the route the cab driver took."

Palfrey maintains her firm offered fantasy services, not sexual ones.

The senator was elected in 2004 after representing Louisiana's 1st Congressional District in the House from 1999 to 2004. Vitter and his wife Wendy have four children.

In addition to Vitter, the trial also concluded without the testimony of military strategist Harlan Ullman or Randall Tobias, a former senior State Department official. Both men had been named among possible witnesses.

Palfrey is charged with racketeering and money laundering for allegedly running a prostitution service for 13 years.

 

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