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Religious Right WingNut Diaper David Supoenaed to Testify

Tuesday, April 08 2008 @ 10:31 PM CDT

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Election-Year Fun:
Socially Conservative GOPer May Be Forced to Testify in Prostitution Case

by Steve Benen

Vitter's troubles may not yet be behind him.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) probably thought, or at least hoped, that his sex scandal was largely behind him. We learned last year, of course, that Vitter had used the services of the "D.C. Madam" -- including making arrangements while casting votes in Congress -- despite being married and running on a conservative "family-values" platform. Vitter's story reemerged a bit a month ago, in light of Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal, and the various similarities between the two controversies.

However, with the statute of limitations having expired, Vitter probably thought this humiliation was behind him. It's not.

Defending herself against a sortie of felony charges stemming from running an alleged interstate prostitution business, Deborah Jeane Palfrey has subpoenaed Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to testify.

Vitter's telephone number appeared in the phone records of Palfrey's business for February 2001, which Palfrey had released to the media. At the time that was revealed, Vitter issued a statement confirming he had used the service. Through his lawyer, Vitter has said he will not testify.

Late on Friday, according to the Legal Times, a lawyer who has represented Vitter urged a federal court judge to nullify the subpoena. The judge didn't buy it. For his part, Vitter, when asked about this by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, said, "I want to reaffirm how sorry I am to have hurt the people I love so deeply, starting with my family and certainly including the people of Louisiana."

If he's forced to testify, I suspect we'll be hearing that apology again.

Now, just to clarify, the lawyer who asked a court to nullify the subpoena, Henry Asbill, has represented Vitter and told the judge in the case that his client would likely invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He did not specifically say, however, that the client in question is Vitter.

[Asbill], who represented Vitter in some earlier motions related to the Palfrey case, told [Judge James] Robertson that the defense has a responsibility to establish that it has a valid legal reason to call his client other than to simply "harass and embarrass him." He also said that it's hard to imagine a legitimate reason to call him as a witness given that the escort service had hundreds, if not thousands of customers, and the defense hasn't even spoken to his client about whether he would have anything to say that would assist its case.

Preston Burton, Palfrey's attorney, told Judge Robertson that he shouldn't be required to reveal his reasons for putting people on his witness list because it would disclose his defense strategy to prosecutors.

The judge declined Asbill's suggestion that he hold a hearing in chambers, and declined to nullify the subpoena. Robertson said he didn't know the name of Asbill's client and "didn't want to know."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's Vitter. As for the political implications, I wonder just how upset the Republican establishment would be if a conservative Republican senator were forced to testify in a prostitution case in an election year?


Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.

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