Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Academy officer led double life as call girl

By Chris Amos - Staff writerPosted : Monday Apr 14, 2008 16:20:47 EDT

By day, Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Dickinson served as the Naval Academy food services officer, responsible for feeding 4,000 midshipmen, and occasionally taught a Navy leadership class in the academy’s ethics department.

By night, she worked as a prostitute, visiting homes and hotel rooms in the Washington, D.C., area. Using the name “Renee,” she had sex with men for $275 each.

Dickinson, testifying April 10 as a prosecution witness against Deborah Jeane Palfrey, a Northern California woman who federal prosecutors say ran a prostitution ring, said she worked for Palfrey for about six months starting in October 2005 and visited an unknown number of men, having sex with customers all but “maybe four, five times.”

Palfrey, the so-called “D.C. Madam,” faces as many as 55 years in prison if she is convicted on all counts. Dickinson, along with at least a dozen other women testifying against Palfrey, was granted immunity and can’t be prosecuted by federal or military authorities based on her testimony.

According to a court transcript, Dickinson testified that she found an advertisement for Palfrey’s company, Pamela Martin and Associates, during an Internet search. She then placed a phone call that set in motion a series of events that would eventually derail a promising Navy career, one that saw Dickinson rise from seaman to instructor at the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens, Ga.

Dickinson has since been removed from that post, has received a punitive letter of reprimand and may face more administrative actions, according to a Navy spokesman.

The call she made based on the Internet ad was answered by a woman who identified herself as Julia; several witnesses testified that “Julia” was an alias of Palfrey’s.

After Dickinson asked for work, she said the woman asked her to send a copy of her driver’s license and a picture, and then alluded to what would be expected of her.

“She just described how an evening would take place, and she had asked me a question, something like, ‘You know you’re not going there just to chat. Right?’”
“Yes,” Dickinson said she responded, indicating that she knew more than conversation would be expected. Palfrey then made arrangements for Dickinson to meet a man at a home in a Maryland suburb of Washington.

Dickinson described the encounter.
“We went in, we had small talk for a little bit, and then we began to have sexual relations. He tried to remove the condom. I was fighting to keep it on. [Afterwards] I told her that I was upset. I told her that he tried to remove the condom, and she said, ‘Don’t talk about such things on this phone.’”

Based on that appointment, Dickinson was hired. She began a routine that would last nearly six months, she said. At night, she would place a phone call to Palfrey, and on some nights — she doesn’t remember how many — she would get a call back.

“If [Palfrey] received phone calls, she would call me back and tell me the address of the appointment, and what time I was supposed to be there, and the person’s name. Then I would leave to go to the appointment. Whenever I was let in, I would take the money from the man first.

“Generally, I took clues from the men, so whatever, however they want you to approach. Many of them, we talked for a while. Others got intimate more quickly.”

She testified that she charged each man $275. She said she kept $130 and went to an Annapolis post office to send a $145 money order by Express Mail to a Benecia, Calif., post office box that Palfrey had rented.

‘Very pleasant, very nice’
Dickinson testified that she did not remember how many “appointments” she went on, but phone records released by Palfrey show more than 200 calls between her office and a cell phone registered to a Rebecca Dickinson of Atlanta. Dickinson did two tours in nearby Athens before serving at the academy.

“She was very pleasant, very nice,” Palfrey said of Dickinson in an interview with Navy Times last year. “She might talk about a rough day at work, but we really didn’t have much of a personal relationship.”

The last time Palfrey said she heard from Dickinson was when Dickinson sent her an e-mail in October 2006, asking to be put back to work after she had resolved some personal issues that caused her to take time off.

“If you need some extra help, I would be glad to work for you again, as a backup or regularly. If you are interested, please just let me know, and if not, I understand,” the e-mail read.

By that time, Palfrey had learned that she was under investigation and her company had folded. Palfrey said she never responded to the e-mail.

“I needed the money. Yes, I did,” Dickinson said, when Palfrey’s defense lawyer, Preston Burton, asked her if she sent the e-mail.

Navy officials say they first learned that Dickinson was a potential witness in the case in May 2007 and began sharing information with the Justice Department, but in deference to federal prosecutors, the service declined to launch an investigation at that time.

After Dickinson gave superiors detailed information about her involvement in the case earlier this month, she was fired her from her job at the Navy Supply Corps School, given the letter of reprimand, and was forced to go on indefinite leave.

“We expect the men and women who serve in our nation’s Navy to adhere to a standard of conduct that reflects our core values of honor, courage and commitment,” chief of naval personnel spokesman Capt. Jack Hanzlik said. “Lt. Cmdr. Dickinson’s conduct will prevent her from wearing this uniform again in the service of our country.”

Dickinson’s civilian lawyer said she understands her Navy career is over.
“She told the truth on the stand and really regrets this episode in her life. Even if she is not prosecuted, she will be paying a price for the rest of her life. We are trying to preserve what we can,” attorney Jonathan Gladstone said April 10. “We aren’t expecting her back in uniform. All things considered, we are happy with that.”

Dickinson enlisted in 1986 as an aviation electronics technician. She left the service three years later, graduated from Auburn University, and was commissioned as a supply officer in 1993. She has served aboard the cruiser Bunker Hill, the fast combat support ship Camden and the ammunition supply ship Santa Barbara, earning two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medals and four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals.

A Navy officer familiar with the case said financial pressures might have motivated her; Dickinson said in court she filed for bankruptcy shortly after the escort service folded.
Palfrey said Dickinson had difficulty caring for her three children, had separated from her husband after a rocky marriage and missed work frequently to care for a sick child.
Dickinson’s lawyer said she did not wish to comment.

Whatever her reasons, Dickinson faces an uncertain future — she has more than 19 years of service time and could be forced to leave the Navy without retirement benefits.
Hanzlik said “a final determination has not been made with regards to her ability to retire,” but said “if she is, it could be at a lower rank because a retirement grade determination might find that her service as a lieutenant commander was not honorable.”