Madam Professor?

January 20, 2006

In what may be a new twist on the oldest profession, police detectives on Tuesday entered the home of Brandy M. Britton, 41, and her two pot-bellied pigs.  As a result of an undercover sting, Britton, a former assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Maryland—Baltimore County, was charged with various prostitution charges after agreeing -- according to police records -- to provide sex for money.

Britton’s home had been the headquarters for the Institute for Women and Girls Health Research. It is unclear whether Britton’s institute is still in operation. In earlier days, while at the university, she had won a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to analyze the possible relationships between "women’s drug use, HIV risk, and interpersonal violence." In 1999, after receiving the grant, Britton was accused by the National Institutes of Health of falsifying information involving a federally funded research project. 

Brandon Justice, a police spokesman, said that it’s not everyday that the Howard County, Md. police station sees an alleged prostitute with a doctorate degree. "It’s very disconcerting," he said. "But we weren’t really investigating her higher education background."

The investigation stemmed from complaints by several area residents who had seen streams of cars and men enter their quiet Ellicott City suburban neighborhood. Then, police found what they said was Britton’s personal Web site, where she advertised herself as a “a sexy, sophisticated and very passionate full-service … escort and erotic masseuse who provides incall or outcall escort or massage appointments in the Maryland, Baltimore, DC/Metro and Virginia areas.” The Web site was pulled down Thursday night.

Britton, who registered the site in May 2005, uses the name Alexis as a pseudonym, according to police, and charged up to $2,500 per day for her services. The department began investigating her in March 2005. Neighbors said that several of the photos on the Web site appear to match Britton’s appearance. Britton did not respond to numerous requests for interviews via telephone and e-mail on Thursday, but the on the Web site, she presented a proud explanation of her educational background. “Alexis is sophisticated, refined, educated and articulate,” according to her site.  “She has two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in biology and the other in sociology.  She also holds a Ph.D. from an elite university and continues to work part-time in her discipline.”  At least two of Britton’s e-mail addresses contain the word “Dr.”

“Professional clients,” advertises Britton, “often say that they enjoy talking with Alexis and that her intelligence, creativity and energy enhances their experiences.”

She also claimed that she is not a prostitute. “Money exchanged in legal adult personal services for modeling is simply for my time and companionship,” according to her site, which also contains several graphic images. “Anything else that may occur is a matter of personal choice between consenting adults of legal age and is not contracted for, nor is it requested to be contracted for in any manner.”

Britton’s neighbor, Bonnie Sorak, said Thursday that she had no idea that the woman she lived two doors from held a doctorate degree. Sorak said that she sometimes saw Britton out gardening in her bikini and the former professor had accused garbage men of going through her garbage.  In a reference to Desperate Housewives, Sorak added, “It feels like we’re living on Wisteria Lane. You never know what’s going on behind your neighbors’ doors.”

Britton’s time at the University of Maryland—Baltimore County was marked by controversy. Mark Lurie, a spokesman for the university, said that she worked as an assistant professor there from 1994-99, until she resigned, accusing the university of conspiring with her students and co-workers to force her to do so. 

In 1998, Britton had made a claim to university administrators that she had faced gender discrimination, but, after an internal investigation, the university found no grounds to pursue the case.  Soon after NIH accused her of falsifying information in 1999, she quit her position.

In a March 2003 district court judgment, which resulted after Britton sued several administrators claiming that they had forced her resignation, a federal judge closed her case without finding in her favor. In the findings, the judge cited that fact that students and employees had lodged several grievances against her, as a result of her own behavior. The complaints ranged from misallocation of grant monies to poor performance as a teacher.  The case was stayed several times to allow Britton to get a new lawyer after her first and second lawyers redrew from the case.

Britton is currently appealing that judgment. 

She now faces charges of engaging in prostitution, maintaining a building for the purpose of prostitution, allowing a building to be used for prostitution and allowing a person into a building for the purpose of prostitution. Each charge carries a penalty of one year in jail and/or a $500 fine.

 

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