By Brad Friedman on 5/1/2008, 11:13am PT  

Just breaking via AP...

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. - Florida authorities confirmed that Deborah Jeane Palfrey, convicted of running a high-end prostitution ring in Washington, is dead in a suspected suicide, NBC News reported.
The body of the 52-year-old woman was found in a shed near her mother's mobile home Thursday morning in Tarpon Springs, about 20 miles northwest of Tampa.

Palfrey, known as the "D.C. Madam," was convicted April 15 by a federal jury of running a prostitution service that catered to members of Washington's political elite, including Sen. David Vitter, R-La.
Palfrey faced a maximum of 55 years in prison and was free pending her sentencing July 24.
One of the escort service employees was former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor Brandy Britton, who was arrested on prostitution charges in 2006. She committed suicide in January before she was scheduled to go to trial.

Last year, Palfrey said she, too, was humiliated by her prostitution charges, but said: "I guess I'm made of something that Brandy Britton wasn't made of."

Palfrey had, at times, cooperated with The BRAD BLOG, serving as a reliable source for various reports as her story unfolded. We send our condolences to both her family and friends.

UPDATE: Monica Hess at WaPo notes Palfrey's death by hanging, and asks "Why do we feel so sad?":

Maybe we feel sad because of the gendered irony. The powerful men whose names surfaced in the scandal, the ones who did not appear in the courtroom, who did not have to discuss their menstrual cycles publicly, have all remained unscathed.

David Vitter is still that good-looking junior senator from Louisiana. Harlan K. Ullman (creator of "shock and awe") is listed as a senior associate on the Web site of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Former State Department official Randall L. Tobias, who previously oversaw AIDS relief, promoting abstinence and a policy requiring grant recipients to swear they opposed prostitution, slunk back to Indiana after his resignation. There, he was appointed president of the board of the Indianapolis Airport Authority. The city's mayor said that America "believed in second chances."
She would have been thinking that she provided a legitimate service --- that college-educated women answered her City Paper ads of their own free will, and that men contacted her of theirs. She would have been thinking that if this was a crime at all, it was surely a victimless one between consenting adults. (Do we feel sad because, deep down, we think that she's right?)