January 18, 2013

18 men who pleaded guilty make Kennebunk prostitution witness list

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED – If the 18 men who have already pleaded guilty to being clients in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case hoped to put the scandal behind them, they may be out of luck.

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Mark Strong Sr.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Alexis Wright

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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The lead prosecutor in the case, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, filed a revised witness list Thursday, just days before the scheduled trial of one of the two major defendants, Mark Strong Sr., that included the names of all 18 men.

The 18 men who pleaded guilty or pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of engaging a prostitute are among the 66 people who have been charged so far as clients of Alexis Wright, a former fitness instructor who authorities allege ran a meticulously documented prostitution business from her Zumba studio in Kennebunk.

The 66 are among the 150 names that Wright allegedly kept in her records, which purportedly included prominent public figures. Affidavits filed by police seeking search warrants earlier in the investigation indicate that Strong may have helped Wright to video record her encounters with her clients.

Strong, a 57-year-old Thomaston businessman, is scheduled to stand trial Tuesday in York County Superior Court on a 59-count indictment of misdemeanor charges including promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy to commit those crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Wright, 30, of Wells, faces 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.

Her trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in May. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

McGettigan confirmed that she had amended her preliminary witness list, bringing the total number of witnesses she intends to call to 57. She declined to answer other questions about the list or on what she plans for the accused prostitution clients who have not pleaded guilty.

Lilley, reached by telephone Thursday afternoon, said he didn’t have time to talk about the revised witness list.

Timothy Zerillo, a Portland attorney who represents three people charged with engaging a prostitute in connection with the case, said the men who already pleaded guilty could be added to the witness list -- while other accused clients have not -- because of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives people the right not to testify on grounds that their testimony could be used against them in a court of law.

“As soon as you plead guilty and your appeal viability has vanished, you can no longer have your 5th Amendment rights,” Zerillo said. “What they really did is speak up and thrust their voice into this case.”

Zerillo said the cases against the three people he represents are still pending and none of them have pleaded guilty.

“You can imagine the embarrassment of having to explain that,” Zerillo asked. “You’ve got to sit there on the stand and say, ‘yes, that’s me in the video.’”

Zerillo said the men who thought they could just plead guilty, pay the fine and get it over with didn’t realize the consequences.

“These guys wanted this to be done and over with, but the reality is, there is fallout. I think the fallout is those subpoenas,” he said.

It’s still unclear whether Strong’s trial will go forward on Tuesday.

Strong is scheduled to appear in court in Portland on Friday morning for two hearings. One, before Justice Nancy Mills, is open to the public, on a motion filed by Lilley seeking to withdraw from the case. Lilley said Tuesday that Strong is “broke” and cannot afford to pay for the legal costs of the trial or the cost of hiring legal experts to adequately defend himself. Mills said she wanted to hear from Strong in person.

The second hearing, to be held behind closed doors, is for Strong and prosecutors to discuss possible plea deals with a judge.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@mainetoday.com

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