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'Beverly Hills Madam' Avoids Going to Jail : Courts: Elizabeth Adams will receive probation instead. Her work as a police informant is cited.

October 01, 1991|JESSE KATZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The woman whose lavish and lucrative prostitution network earned her the nickname "Beverly Hills madam" will get probation instead of prison, largely because of police testimony that she was a valued informant, officials said Monday.

Elizabeth Adams, 58, had faced a minimum jail term of three years for charges that she used her house above the Sunset Strip to pimp and pander, and attempted to enlist an undercover policewoman into her high-priced ring of call girls.

But in a deal with the district attorney's office, Adams pleaded guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court to one felony count of "sale of person for immoral purposes." In return for her plea, she will be sentenced Oct. 28 to 1 1/2 years of probation.

"It was going to be messy and expensive," said her attorney, Anthony P. Brooklier. "Both sides stood to lose something if this case went to trial."

Prosecutors said they accepted the deal to avoid a lengthy courtroom battle over Adams' contention that she ran her business with the approval of Los Angeles police, some of whom considered her a prized undercover agent.

In a pretrial hearing last year, veteran vice detectives testified that the department was willing to look the other way because Adams and her $2,000-a-day prostitutes had used "pillow talk" to garner key information about murder suspects, terrorists, drug traffickers and fugitive financier Robert L. Vesco.

"She was the best informant I ever met," Detective Daniel Lott testified. Another officer said: "As long as she provided information, she didn't go to jail."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Carter maintained that Adams' relationship with police was never authorized--and thus she was not immune from prosecution--but he said he was not convinced he could persuade a jury of that.

"It's our contention that there was no authorization," Carter said. "But based on some of the testimony, there was some question about whether we'd be able to prevail."

Adams has suggested that authorities were nervous she might start naming her clients, who reportedly included oil sheiks, millionaire businessmen and Sacramento politicians. "Revelations, my dear," she recently told a reporter in a courthouse hallway.

Although police documents included in the court file discuss Adams' clientele, names are blacked out and most references are to Middle Eastern dignitaries and royalty.

When police arrested Adams, according to court documents, she stalled them long enough to throw what authorities believe was her client book into the fireplace, reducing it to ashes.

Prosecutors on Monday denied that they approved a plea-bargain to keep the names of Adams' clients secret.

"It's not relevant to anything," Carter said. "I have absolutely no idea who her clients are."

Adams was arrested in 1988 after allegedly telling an undercover policewoman that she could make $300 an hour on her payroll. At first, Adams did not want to disclose her role as an informant for fear of retaliation from those whose names she had given to police, her attorney said.

But, according to Brooklier, she came to believe that revealing her work with the police was crucial to her defense.

Brooklier said Adams now works as a Westside caterer.

Despite the testimony of several detectives, Los Angeles police officials have never confirmed that Adams was an informant. However, a 1987 police report on her states: "No contact. Inactive. Should go to jail."

Deputy Chief William Booth said the department is neutral on Monday's court action.

"The D.A. preferred to accept a plea," Booth said. "We didn't support it, but neither did we oppose it."

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