A Navy officer could face punishment - including a discharge - after testifying yesterday that while stationed at the Naval Academy in Annapolis she moonlighted for the alleged prostitution ring run by the so-called "D.C. Madam."
Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca C. Dickinson managed the Naval Academy's food services between September 2004 and May 2007, Navy officials said. She also taught a course on leadership for the leadership, ethics and law department.
She acknowledged on the witness stand yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington that she also worked as an escort for a service run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, known as the D.C. Madam.
Dickinson, 38, a Tennessee native who was known to her clients as "Renee," said she worked for the business for about six months starting in October 2005.
The Naval Academy declined to comment on the case, referring questions to the Navy. A spokesman there said Dickinson has been placed on leave pending further review.
"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," said the spokesman, Capt. Jack Hanzlik.
"Lieutenant Commander Dickinson's conduct will prevent her from wearing this uniform again in the service of our country."
Dickinson testified that she found Palfrey's firm in an Internet search in 2005, called a number and arranged to go on a "test run" with a man in Howard County for which she was not paid, according to a transcript of yesterday's testimony.
She later charged $275 for her appointments, which lasted up to 90 minutes and regularly included sex, Dickinson testified.
"I wouldn't do anything I wouldn't feel comfortable with," Dickinson testified.
Dickinson is among about a dozen former call girls who have testified this week against Palfrey.
Palfrey, 52, of Northern California, is accused of running an upscale prostitution business for 13 years in the Washington area, counting high-profile government officials among her clientele. She is charged with racketeering, money laundering and using the mail for illegal purposes.
Records seized by investigators have connected the ring to a number of prominent alleged clients in Washington, including Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican whom Palfrey's attorneys have said they may call as a witness.
Also on the list: Randall Tobias, a former CEO of Eli Lilly, who resigned as deputy secretary of state last year after being linked to the service, and Harlan Ullman, a military strategist who created the concept of "shock and awe."
Palfrey has maintained that she ran a legal escort service whose employees were instructed not to have sex with clients.
Dickinson testified under grant of immunity, which the Navy says effectively precludes a court-martial or federal criminal prosecution.
However, the Navy says she may still face administrative punishment - such as an other-than-honorable discharge that would trigger a loss of benefits.
Dickinson, who is less than a year from being eligible for retirement benefits from the Navy, has won four Navy/Marine Corps achievement medals and two commendation medals in her military career, which began in 1986.
She was reassigned in May 2007 to the Naval Supply Corps School in Athens, Ga.
The Navy removed her from her duties and placed her on leave after being notified by federal prosecutors about her role as a witness in the D.C. Madam case, said Hanzlik, the Navy spokesman.
Dickinson "could be released from active duty without benefits. And for somebody who's a little better than 19 years of service, as you can imagine, that's a pretty substantial loss," Hanzlik said.
He added that Dickinson has received a letter of reprimand for conduct unbecoming an officer, relating to her involvement with Palfrey's firm.
Jonathan Gladstone, Dickinson's attorney, said she would not comment on the case but that her work for Palfrey was her only experience as an escort. He said that she hopes to retire with benefits from the Navy.
"Even if she is not prosecuted criminally, she will be paying a big penalty," Gladstone said. "If she is allowed to retire, it's not going to be with a 21-gun salute."
Dickinson was apparently nervous before her testimony. U.S. District Judge James Robertson told her to "take two deep breaths and relax, everything is going to be OK," according to the transcript.
She said that when she contacted Palfrey's firm, Pamela Martin & Associates, she spoke with a woman named Julia who described an evening with a client, saying, "You know you're not going there just to chat. Right? Yes or no is fine."
Dickinson said she responded yes.
She said that after an interview, she was assigned to the test run with the man in Howard County. Afterwards, when she told Julia about the encounter, she was told, "Don't talk about such things on this line," she testified.
She began working for the company regularly as an escort, calling in at certain times to check in. Julia would call back with an address, time and client name, she testified, according to the transcript.
Clients paid her shortly after she arrived, she testified.
Describing a typical appointment, she said: "Generally I just took clues from the men, so whatever - however they want you to approach. Many of them, we talked for a while."
She said she didn't always have sex with the men with whom she met. When they did, she said, "it was mutual."
Julia instructed her to pay extra attention to new clients to ensure she was not meeting with "the wrong people," Dickinson said.
"If it's someone new, if it's a home, when you walk in, look around for pictures, things that make it look lived in," she said. "Ask for a utility bill and a driver's license so you can verify that the person lives there."
She said that of the $275 fee, she would keep $130 and give the rest to Palfrey's firm, sending her money orders to a post office box in California.
She said she quit working as an escort in April 2006 because of time constraints and because "I didn't like it."
In need of money, she later offered to return to work for Palfrey. But she filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter and didn't work for the firm again.
During cross-examination, Preston Burton, an attorney for Palfrey, asked whether Dickinson, with the exception of one appointment, discussed with Palfrey her specific duties as an escort.
"Not that I can recall," Dickinson replied.
Dickinson never mentioned her work at the Naval Academy during the hearing.
Sun reporter Bradley Olson contributed to this article.
Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca C. Dickinson
Enlisted in Navy:
Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy "E" Ribbon, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Naval Supply Corps School, Athens, Ga., curriculum development, current.
Naval Academy, Annapolis, managed food service, 2004-2007.
USS Bunker Hill, guided missile cruiser, 2002-2004.
Naval Supply Corps School, 2000-2002.
Naval Leadership Training, Little Creek, Va., 2000.
USS Camden, fast combat support ship, 1997-1999.