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Palfrey. Spitzer. Enough already!

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Photo from website of U.S. District Court (W.D. Mi.).

Consenting adults should be able to engage in private sexual conduct without fear of prosecution, including when money exchanges hands for such activity, also known as prostitution. The United States Supreme Court has already recognized the broad hands-off approach the government must take with private consensual adult sexual activity. Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), It is time for the government to back off from and legalize prostitution, not only because that is a logical follow-up to Lawrence , but also because the more the government interferes with prostitution, the more the government also will interfere with other activities that are popular with a more widespread part of the population than is prostitution.

Except for some enlightened counties in Nevada, prostitution remains criminalized in the United States. Thus we see the ongoing criminal investigation relating to Eliot Spitzer’s paid sexual preferences, and the current Deborah Palfrey prosecution in Washington, D.C., federal court.

Ms. Palfrey’s case is now being deliberated by the jury. Noteworthy are some of the sage comments by presiding Judge James Robertson during the trial, as reported by the Washington Post‘s Dana Millbank, including:

– After the prosecutor asked one of many immunized witness — one of Ms. Palfrey’s former employees — whether she had sexual intercourse with clients, the prosecutor "pressed on with more humiliating questions until the judge cut him off. ‘That’s enough,’ Robertson said. Minutes later, the dazed woman was helped out of the room."

– "’You want to make public the names of all the employees?’ Robertson asked prosecutor Catherine Connelly. ‘Is there no limit to the collateral damage?’ Evidently not. [prosecutor] Connelly said the names had to be released. ‘Unfortunately.’"

– "An IRS agent [on April 10] showed the jury photos of [Palfrey’s] home — a mop and cornflakes box in evidence — and recited Palfrey’s sewer bill, electricity payment, car maintenance and check to Office Deport. One juror’s eyes closed, and her head dropped. Others yawned. ‘I’m not sure why the jury needs to see any of this,’ the judge pointed out. ‘Waste of time.’"

This whole Palfrey trial is a waste of time, and a waste of justice, as are all prostitution prosecutions. Jon Katz.