ALFRED — Donald Hill, the former Kennebunk High School hockey coach who was charged with hiring Alexis Wright for sex, was acquitted Tuesday after the judge ruled that a ledger Wright used to track her prostitution clients was inadmissible as evidence.
Justice Roland Cole ruled that because the ledger could not be used in the trial, the state failed to prove its case. He ordered the case dismissed before it could go to the jury.
Hill, 53, of Old Orchard Beach was charged in October with engaging Wright for prostitution. Of the 68 people who have been charged with the same crime in the widely publicized case, Hill was the first to take his case to trial.
“It’s been a rough year,” he said outside York County Superior Court after the ruling.
“It’s good to finally have my day in court and get the judgment that we did,” Hill said, standing beside his attorney, Gary Prolman. “I’m extremely happy.”
Wright, 30, a former Zumba instructor from Wells, pleaded guilty on March 29 to 14 counts of engaging in prostitution and six other misdemeanors.
She is now in the third month of a 10-month sentence in the York County Jail.
Her business partner, Mark Strong Sr., 57, of Thomaston, was convicted March 6 of 13 counts of promotion of prostitution and conspiracy with Wright.
Strong has completed his sentence, after serving part of a 20-day term in jail.
The two were at the center of a scandal that drew international attention as authorities alleged that Wright ran a prostitution business out of her Zumba studio and business office in Kennebunk and kept a ledger with the names of more than 140 clients.
Late Tuesday morning, Prolman and prosecutors debated before Cole whether Wright’s ledger could be shared with the jury as evidence.
Cole called the ledger the “linchpin” in the case, then ruled in the afternoon that it would constitute hearsay, because Wright could not be forced to testify about its contents.
Wright was called by prosecutors to testify Monday, but the judge ruled that she had to give only limited testimony.
Cole allowed her to exercise her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent on many questions, on grounds that her testimony could be used against her.
Wright’s attorney, Sarah Churchill, argued successfully that prosecutors “made it very clear” previously that they did not believe Wright’s explanation of why she went into prostitution, and that Wright would face a perjury charge even if she testified truthfully.
Wright has contended that she ran her prostitution business with the belief that she was an undercover agent working for the state.
Wright says that Strong, who was a licensed private investigator in Maine, convinced her that she was acting as an investigator looking into “sexual deviants.”
The lead investigator in the case testified Tuesday, the second day of Hill’s trial, that Wright’s ledger was a cornerstone of her investigation.
The ledger contained the names of Wright’s clients, the dates she saw them, codes to indicate sex acts she performed and the amounts they paid.
Kennebunk police Officer Audra Presby said she used the ledger, seized from Wright’s computer during a police raid at her Zumba studio and business office on Feb. 14, 2012, to connect video and photo evidence to Wright’s prostitution business.
“I used it as a comparison,” Presby said of the ledger. “I would take the date of the video and compare it to the date on the ledger. I would begin to identify the client.”
Strong, who also was ordered to testify Monday, said he had little involvement in the creation of the ledger other than to create the spreadsheet template and make occasional modifications at Wright’s request.
The judge’s decision not to allow the ledger into evidence came after the jury was shown 38 pictures of Hill and Wright nude together on Nov. 1, 2011, in Wright’s Zumba studio.
None of the photos clearly shows money being exchanged between Hill and Wright, Presby testified under cross-examination by Prolman.
The photos were taken by Strong, who was in his office in Thomaston with a live-feed video from a camera in Wright’s studio.
Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon said they felt their arguments to have Wright’s ledger admitted were valid but they would not appeal the ruling.
“We believed the evidence was admissible; the judge disagreed with us,” Gordon said.
Fifty-nine people have pleaded guilty or no contest to the misdemeanor charge of engaging Wright for prostitution in the case.
The cases of the other eight are still pending. Two have trials scheduled for next month.
Kennebunk police said after Wright pleaded guilty that they were investigating another 40 people for possible charges of engaging Wright for prostitution.
McGettigan said Tuesday that it’s too soon to say whether her office will continue seeking charges against those people.
“If there’s enough evidence to proceed, we will. If there’s not enough evidence to proceed, we won’t,” McGettigan said. “We don’t think this needs to be announced.”
Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: