This is your place to talk about the funny, sad, outrageous things that are happening in your life -- whenever you're ready.
I am best known as the madam who provided call girls to former Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer. In less than 90 days I will turn myself in to a federal prison to serve a 24-month sentence. I have thought long and hard about why I am writing this and primarily, I hope that others will read about my experience and learn from the many mistakes I have made in my life.
I'm also writing this -- and plan to continue writing from prison -- because I'm genuinely concerned about my safety there, and I feel this is one of the best ways to keep me safe.
"Manhattan Madam" is the salacious title given to me by the tabloid press when I was arrested in the wake of the scandal that brought down Eliot Spitzer.
Perhaps you caught one of the newspapers that wrote about it because the words "politician," "prostitute," and "madam" in one sentence tend to elicit a lot of attention. I actually missed most of that news coverage because I was sitting in solitary confinement on Rikers Island.
I also might look familiar to you because I have appeared on numerous TV shows including 20/20, Good Morning America, Dateline, Hannity, Joy Behar, Anderson Cooper and The Nightly News. I made a cameo appearance in the big screen documentary, "Inside Job," and Roger Ebert said I was “one of the most fascinating aspects” of the film (which was one of the nicest things the press has ever said about me).
In 2010, I ran for Governor of New York and was in the televised debates with now-Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Both Jay Leno and Steven Colbert mentioned me and talked about my “stellar” debate performance on their shows.
Actually, Jay Leno said that I might be right when I said, “All of our politicians are whores and I am the only one capable of dealing with them.” Lifetime also made a special on my life, and I wrote an advice book for women. Only a year ago, I was running for New York City Comptroller and was well connected in the NY political scene speaking at events with Jesse Ventura and former Governor Gary Johnson.
What most people don’t know about me is my background is finance.
I spent 10 years working for hedge funds -- by the end, I was the senior vice president of operations for a $2-billion fund. I have worked full-time since the age of 15, and my first job was at a dry cleaner, pressing clothes. I graduated high school two years early and because we didn’t have much money, I opted to forgo college and went to work. I pressed clothes for a year and then managed to land an office job at Archer Daniels Midland. I became the firm's youngest inside sales representative dealing with bulk commodities off the Chicago Board of Trades.
My natural aptitude for numbers led me to a hedge fund where I started as an assistant. I had started and stopped a few colleges but I rarely finished my classes because I could not afford to miss work and I needed to support myself. At 20, I finally started college full-time at night and on weekends so I could continue working. It took me six years to get my degree.
I know initially, the progression from finance executive to madam seems a bit crazy. However, it's more logical and connected than you would think. It was actually the world of finance that introduced me to the world of escorts.
My first job in finance was as a trading assistant handling the trades and personal life of the firm’s top trader. One of the first things the trader asked me to do was to book a weekend trip to Las Vegas with his VIP host. Much of that weekend’s entertainment was related to spending time with various different female companions…aka escorts.
The VIP host would send over pictures and bios of girls and I would have to help my boss choose which women to book. At the end of his trip my boss would give me his expense report to submit to the firm, complete with a 5-figure bill from the escort agency (and a few strip clubs). My boss did this for years, and as long as he was making the firm millions, no one cared that he spent $30,000 a weekend on escorts.
This is not an isolated incident. In fact, the men in the firm openly discussed which escort agencies had the best girls and how much they spent. I worked at another hedge fund as controller where one of my duties was to pay the corporate credit card bills. I have seen many portfolio managers and traders submit expense reports with escort agency and strip club bills and paid them because it is the norm. Because the men in finance are responsible for generating the revenue (we are talking hundreds of millions), any bad behavior is overlooked as long as it does not interfere with the profits.
I was working at my last hedge fund job when I began toying with the idea of opening an agency as a means of making additional income to help support my mother and her medical expenses. It was the first job I was ever fired from (for using the computer to look at Craigslist), and I decided to open the agency the next week.
I ran that agency for five years.
At its height I had a roster of 120 women with permanent locations in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington DC. I treated the girls with respect, never forced a woman to do anything and loved many of them as if they were sisters. Some women came to me homeless, running from abusive partners, or on the verge of eviction. I bailed them out of their bad situation and helped them put their life back together.
I thought the money from the industry was helping them.
In hindsight, I realize that the money might have helped them temporarily but it would often hurt them forever.
I have known hundreds of prostitutes and many of them share a commonality in that they are victims of sexual abuse. Victims of sexual abuse do not value sex, they do not value themselves and their most basic understanding of sex is one of abuse so they do not place much importance in the act.
I know this because I too am one of those victims, and it’s that commonality that made running an escort agency a viable option to me. Whatever perceived glamour is associated with being a high-end escort, it is an industry plagued with drug abuse, deceit, theft and dishonesty, and it leads to nothing but heartache.
I started to feel awful about the business and I wanted to get out. The girls begged me to not close because they needed their jobs so I sold the business. Unfortunately the guy I sold it to had “misappropriated” $5 million from Commerce Bank and his check to me which had cleared instantly froze my bank accounts.
A month later Eliot Spitzer was caught with Ashley Dupre.
I knew I was going to be arrested. I hired my first attorney, Mark Heller, to negotiate turning myself in. A week later a S.W.A.T. team in full riot gear was at my door to arrest me. There were over 50 police cars surrounding my building and helicopters overhead.
I was taken to Rikers Island. I spent two days in the “intake” area in a cell meant for 10 women, however, there were 25 of us piled in like sardines. There was one toilet in the center of the room with no walls and it was full of rotten food and maggots and flies. I was not allowed a phone call, given food or a shower or a real bathroom. If you were able to get one of the officers' attention, they would threaten you with solitary for being disruptive. My bail was set at $2 million dollars for a first time offender.
I was on the cover of every newspaper on the East Coast and moved into solitary confinement.
I spent almost four months in solitary on 23-hour lockdown. I was allowed outside one hour a day for recreation time which was nothing more then moving me outside to a cell in a small chain link fence box (think dog kennel) where I could see the daylight for one hour.
On many days the officers withheld food because they were the ones serving us, and they did not feel like catering to criminals. I had to bang on my cell walls for hours to get a shower or the phone.
One time the officers incorrectly told me I had court and when I said I did not, they threatened to “take me by force” and taser me to make me to go to court. Needless to say I went to court but because I missed the morning bus, they put me on the men’s bus.
I was forced to endure an hour-long ride sitting shackled next to male inmates -- a few of whom felt like masturbating or showing me their genitals. Of course when we got to court I was told I don’t have a court date and sent back on the bus.
Three or four times a week the officers did raids of our cells searching for contraband. While this seemed ludicrous to me since we were in lockdown and had no contact with anyone, these were conducted in a brutal fashion. A team of 8-12 female and male officers would come into the area and order us to strip naked and stand in the middle of our cells.
The officers liked to make comments about our body parts and after about 10 minutes of standing naked in our cells, they would conduct their cavity search. That consisted of making us bend and squat to show them our “cavities” to make sure there was no hidden contraband. Then we could get dressed and watch while they tore our cells into shreds looking for hidden items. You don’t have much to hold onto in jail but a few photographs and letters, and I had one officer walk over my photographs and rip them just because she could.
The day-in-day-out degradation I experienced in Rikers Island is something you cannot imagine if you haven’t been there. I consider myself lucky to have made it through that experience. I was fortunate enough to make one friend, Remy, who I will always credit for helping me get through.
To the world she is known as rapper Remy Ma. To me she will always be Remy Smith. She is a true friend. She didn’t know anything about me and showed me kindness and friendship just because. She is someone who didn’t judge me and was able to be kind despite being in a horribly cruel place. I’m sure I will talk about our friendship more in the future because I truly don’t think I would have made it through Rikers if it hadn’t been for her.
I got out of Rikers and was a complete mess. I had PTSD, intense panic attacks and insomnia from the solitary confinement.
I had lost my home, my money, my job and the government had seized all of my assets. I was trying to find a job and live a normal life but I was unemployable. The world of finance was closed to me because I had made headline news for a crime. After months of interviewing, I gave up and decided to embrace the media and write a book. I also started lobbying to decriminalize prostitution after a girl who used to work for me, Julissa Brissman, was murdered by Phillip Markoff after meeting him on Craigslist.
The news reported this as the "Craigslist Murderer," and I was heartbroken. All I wanted was to be able to do something to help the women who chose to be escorts so that they will have some legal protection under the law; that they can call the police without fear of being arrested when someone hurts them.
Through the course of doing some media interviews, I met Roger Stone. He is a well-known political consultant who has run four presidential campaigns including both Bush campaigns. I asked him about lobbying for decriminalization of prostitution. He proposed I run for governor of New York. While I laughed at the idea because I’m actually mortified of speaking in public, he eventually talked me into it by convincing me I could advocate for some social issues I believe in: marriage equality, decriminalization of prostitution and marijuana, etc. So in 2010, I ran for governor of New York. I gathered 23,000 signatures to get on the ballot and received over 20,000 votes.
Then in 2013, I was nominated to run for NYC comptroller by the Libertarian Party.
What most people don’t know is that we were in talks with the Independence Party to secure their nomination. And there was a strategic plan in place to take the Republican line because they were not running a candidate at that time. That would have made me a force to be reckoned with in New York City.
Then three months after I secured my spot in the comptroller’s race, Eliot Spitzer announced he was running against me. I could not have been more shocked.
I have openly criticized him for years for abusing his power as chief executive officer of our state. He was the official who made it a felony for a man to get caught with a prostitute yet he himself was not punished for a law he created.
I spent four months in solitary confinement in jail and lost everything I owned for being associated with him. He got a show on CNN.
It's not about getting caught with his pants down; it's about holding our elected officials responsible for their actions, letting them know that they cannot break laws and abuse the public trust and get away with it.
I would have spent that race reminding the public of his actions and I was floored that he would choose to be in a race against me.
In hindsight, I have to wonder if he knew I was going to be taken out of the race, if he knew about my upcoming arrest and if he knew I would not be a threat to him since I would not be a candidate for long. It wouldn’t be the first time he abused law enforcement power so perhaps my thinking is not entirely farfetched. I was arrested three weeks later.
Do not misunderstand -- in no way am I attempting to justify my actions or to imply that I was set up. I did commit a crime. For the years following my first arrest I have suffered from panic attacks and intense insomnia. I had PTSD; I could not ever sleep because of the nightmares. I started seeing a psychiatrist and taking prescription pills to sleep and to relieve the anxiety. At times I would run out of pills so I would buy them from a dealer whom I became friends with. I am aware that being friends with a drug dealer isn’t common for a normal person, however, he and his girlfriend were older hippies, and I ended up befriending them. In time, my symptoms got worse and my doctor prescribed more pills.
Ambien and Xanax became my best friends and I couldn’t manage to function without them.
Around December of 2012 my friend was arrested and became an informant for the FBI (I learned this through my criminal complaint). I am unclear on the timing but it is around that time that my friend asked me to give him any excess pills I had. He offered to reimburse me.
I didn’t ask him for money. But since he offered, I decided to sell the pills to him at the cost of the refilling of prescriptions, which was minimal. Of course, I knew that my friend resold these pills, and I knew that it was wrong. I don’t have much of an explanation for this except that I thought I was helping a friend and that I didn’t realize how dangerous prescription pills can be.
I would not be sincere however if I did not say that there is a part of me that feels betrayed. But, at the end of the day, I know that I cannot and I do not blame my friend. He did not force me to do anything. I am an adult and I made my own bed. I must accept responsibility for my actions. And these actions have led me to a prison cell.
Like many people I did not realize how dangerous prescription drugs could be. These drugs destroy everyone they touch -- those that use them, the family members of the users, and those that sell them, even doctors. For years, I was overprescribed various medications by my psychiatrist. I thought these drugs were helping me. I was desperate for sleep and to relieve my anxiety, which was morphing into agoraphobia.
For days I wouldn’t sleep and then I would become afraid to leave the house. At one point I was taking 3-4 times the legal limit for Xanax and my psychiatrist told me that I could have a heart attack if I missed a dose. But he kept prescribing them, and I kept taking them. My psychiatrist was prescribing the same friend who was the informant. The FBI executed a search warrant on my doctor a couple days after my arrest. He hanged himself that same night.
There is no amount of words to express how heartbroken I am at his death. He was my doctor for five years, and I trusted him. There have been numerous times this past year when I have had a problem and thought I would have made an appointment to see him and he would have tried to help me. He was my confidante and, in a twisted way, my advocate. I know he overprescribed me and got me addicted to prescription pills. I know he overprescribed others and just outright charged cash in exchange for prescriptions. But he didn’t deserve to die. And that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Now I am going to jail. For two years.
I will lose most of my possessions and be homeless when I come out. And you know what I think? I think I got what I deserved.
My judge said some poignant words to me at sentencing. He said that he sentences many individuals who have no family and grew up in crack houses or even more unspeakable circumstances, and they simply do not know better.
But I should have known better.
He said that I do not appreciate the opportunities or chances I have had in life because I squandered them. And my judge is right. I have had opportunities, and I still broke the law, again. I did squander my last second chance. But I won’t squander my next one.
They say God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle and that whatever you go through is meant to bring you to a better place. A prison sentence is obviously part of the path my life was supposed to take. I hope you will join me on that path, as I will be blogging from inside my cell. We can see what prison holds together.