October 26, 2012

Release of 'the list' on hold for now

Authorities will not make public alleged prostitution client names before the state's highest court has ruled.

By Ann S. Kim akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Alexis Wright leaves the courtroom on Tuesday after her arraignment at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. She entered a plea of not guilty to 109 counts including prostitution and tax evasion charges.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Wright, 29, is accused of prostituting herself and secretly taping the encounters at her studio and office. She faces 106 charges in the case, mostly the misdemeanor offenses of prostitution and violation of privacy but also three felonies related to taxes and receiving public assistance when ineligible because of her alleged prostitution income. She entered not guilty pleas to all the charges earlier this week.

A police affidavit indicated that authorities had evidence that the sex acts Wright performed would have generated $150,000.

Strong, a 57-year-old businessman from Thomaston, has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanors: promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

One of Schwartz's clients, John Doe 1, described himself in an affidavit as a disabled person who has children and is a productive member of society. He said the nature of the charge against him is so "notorious" that it would severely harm his reputation and his family and professional relationships.

"I am deeply concerned that a public spectacle will be made of the allegations as they pertain to me. I am also concerned that I will be prejudiced by reading the 'list' if it is published by local media," John Doe 1 said in the document.

Gary Prolman, who represents other alleged "johns," said late Friday he had filed motions in York County Superior Court in Alfred asking that the names of victims of the alleged violation of privacy by Wright and Strong be kept confidential in the cases of those two key defendants as well as in any related cases.

"They allege my guys had their privacy invaded. As such, they should have the rights any other victims have," he said.

The Portland Press Herald and the York County Coast Star had fought the state’s effort to impose a gag order in the high-profile case, saying that the state’s argument did not meet the standard for confidentiality.

“The Supreme Court has said, ‘Openness ... enhances both the basic fairness of the criminal trial and the appearance of fairness so essential to public confidence in the system,” wrote Sigmund Schutz of Preti Flaherty, the lawyer for the newspapers.

For their part, Kennebunk residents said they were simply tired of the attention. Tired of being asked questions. Tired of the rumor mill churning. Tired of the fishbowl scrutiny of their small town. A national crew from ABC News spent Friday in Kennebunk interviewing townspeople. Reporters from several Boston media outlets were there as well.

Ann Whetstone, who owns Mainely Murders Bookstore in town, said there has been a lot of fuss over something that's "not that serious a crime," but she admitted that things might be different if her family was affected.

"People are going to talk but my life isn't going to change too much," she said. "If people are stupid enough to do this in their hometown, they need to accept what happens when they get caught."

Greg Butterworth, an artist and gallery owner downtown, said he moved to town earlier this year, not long before Wright's Zumba studio closed down, but has been following the case.

"I guess people deserve what comes around," he said. "But life goes on. People have short memories."

Andrew Dolloff, superintendent of schools for RSU 21, which includes Kennebunk, already started reaching out to teachers last week to be on the lookout for any bullying of children once the names start to come out.

Marc McClellan, 17, and Chris Arsenault, 16, both students at nearby Wells High School, said the client list has been the talk of their school.

"Everyone is talking about it," McClellan said. "Even the teachers."

Added Arsenault, "It's going to ruin some reputations, that's for sure."

Susan Marcoux, who lives in Arundel but was shopping in Kennebunk on Friday, said the release of the names was going to create a lot of awkward and uncomfortable situations around town. Part of her hopes that most of the names are from out of town.

"I want to think the best of people in our little part of the state," she said.

Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

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