BIDDEFORD – Court workers are bracing for a wave of media attention Wednesday, with the first defendants in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case scheduled for arraignment. But only three of the 21 men are expected to appear.
By Tuesday, lawyers for 18 of the men who were summoned to appear in Biddeford District Court to face one count each of engaging a prostitute had filed not-guilty pleas for their clients, who will not have to appear in court Wednesday.
The 21 men, whose names were released Oct. 16, were the first group charged in the investigation of Alexis Wright of Wells, the former Zumba instructor who allegedly ran a prostitution operation from her studio in Kennebunk.
The Kennebunk Police Department has since released the names of dozens more men on its biweekly crime blotter.
Lawyers for nine of the 18 men who pleaded not guilty have requested jury trials in York County Superior Court.
The cases against the other nine remain in District Court for now. Their lawyers have 21 days from Wednesday to file motions.
Those men are still technically scheduled for arraignment Wednesday, but they do not need to appear because their attorneys have formally acknowledged the charges and entered pleas.
The men who are scheduled to appear for arraignment at 1 p.m. in Biddeford District Court are Kenneth Fairbanks, 54, of 177 Ridge Road in Lisbon Falls; Paul Main, 43, of 153 South St. in Biddeford; and Claude Palmer Jr., 47, of 117 Pottle Road in Oxford.
The court files for the three men show no entries by attorneys.
A total of 62 men have been charged with engaging a prostitute in the case, which has drawn international media attention and made news with each release of names.
At least four men pleaded guilty before police issued criminal complaints against them, so they avoided being named in the police blotters.
Authorities have said Wright kept detailed records of more than 150 clients, including some prominent figures. Police began investigating her after getting complaints from neighbors that many men were seen coming and going from Wright’s business for short visits.
The nine men who are seeking jury trials are: Jens-Peter Bergen, 54, of 79 Portland Road in Kennebunk; Norman Crepeau, 45, of 2 Channel Cove Lane in Biddeford; Donald Hill, 52, of 139 Union Ave. in Old Orchard Beach; Dale Madore, 34, of 242 W. Pownal Road in North Yarmouth; Colin Powers, 39, of 4 Ramsay Terrace in Scarborough; Clinton Ray, 41, of 150 Falmouth St. in Portland; John Verrault, 50, of 1 Seafields Lane in Saco; James White, 39, of 50 Lord Road in Buxton; and Peter Wormell Sr., 61, of 200 Brook St. in Westbrook.
Verrault’s attorney, Timothy Zerillo, filed a not-guilty plea on his client’s behalf in October and said he received notice this week that the case has been transferred to Superior Court for a jury trial.
The nine who filed not-guilty pleas and kept their cases pending in District Court are Gary Bahlkow, 57, of 15 Lawrence Road in North Yarmouth; Joseph Cuetara, 63, of New Castle, N.H.; Monie Hobbs Jr., 43, of 11 Aarons Way in North Berwick; David Kline, 51, of Rye Beach, N.H.; Robert Labonte, 62, of 8 New Country Road in Saco; Harry McMann, 56, of 76 Morning St. in Portland; Kevin Pagliccia, 39, of 200 Front Road in Lyman; Philip Parker, 65, who has a post office box address in Kennebunk; and James A. Soule, 58, formerly of South Portland.
Attorney Peter DeTroy represents Bahlkow and Soule. He said he has 21 days to decide how to proceed. He said he sought to keep the cases in District Court for now to give his clients the most options.
DeTroy said, “If I decide to transfer it to Superior Court, I’ll have the option of a bench trial or jury trial.”
In District Court, he could seek a trial before a judge rather than a jury, he said.
Messages left for attorneys for some of the other men were not returned Tuesday.
Wright has been charged with 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible. She has pleaded not guilty.
Mark Strong Sr., a businessman from Thomaston who is accused of conspiring with Wright, has been indicted on 59 misdemeanor charges of promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy to commit those crimes. He also has pleaded not guilty.
A Superior Court justice held a phone conference Tuesday with defense attorneys and prosecutors to discuss whether to try Wright and Strong together or separately.
Prosecutors have until Thursday to file more information supporting their argument that two be tried together.
Defense attorneys then will have until Monday to file responses.
Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: