Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Ann S. Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND — A lawyer representing two alleged prostitution clients of Alexis Wright has filed a motion to block the release of the names of anyone charged as "johns" or included on lists the Zumba instructor kept.
Stephen Schwartz said he filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the state or any of its agents from releasing the names, including those who have been charged. He said he filed the motion in Biddeford District Court and provided a copy to Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills late Thursday afternoon.
The move came a day before police were expected to release the names of people charged with soliciting prostitution. Speculation about Wright's alleged client list, which reportedly has more than 150 names, including those of prominent figures, has rocked the town of Kennebunk, where Wright had a fitness studio.
Schwartz said that the release of the names could be damaging to his clients, identified only as "John Does."
"It has the ability to infect the jury pool, to prejudice people, to deny them the right to due process and a fair trial," he said. "Furthermore, it marks them with a scarlet letter in the community and it appeals to the most prurient interests of people who want to see the list."
Schwartz said he does not believe that the state has enough evidence to prove the cases against alleged clients without the testimony of Wright, who has a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
Another lawyer, Gary Prolman, said he planned to follow Schwartz's lead by filing a simliar motion Friday. Prolman, who wouldn't say how many alleged clients he represented, said he expected other defense lawyers to follow suit.
Wright, 29, is accused of prostituting herself and secretly taping the encounters. She pleaded not guilty this week to 106 counts, including three felonies related to taxes and receiving public assistance when ineligible.
Mark Strong Sr. of Thomaston is accused of being Wright's partner in the operation. Strong, 57, entered not guilty pleas this week to 59 misdemeanor charges.
During searches of Wright's fitness studio, a nearby office and her home in Wells, authorities found hours of video footage, meticulous client records and evidence that the sex acts Wright performed generated $150,000, according to an affidavit.
Police have been issuing summonses to suspected clients over the past week and have indicated that the names of those charged may be released Friday.
Sigmund Schutz, an attorney with a specialty in public access laws, said the judge could act very quickly on the matter. But there is no obligation for police or others targeted by the motion to comply if no court order is in place, said Schutz, who represents the Portland Press Herald.
"Until there's a court order, there's nothing to prevent them from releasing public records," he said.
Strong's attorney, Daniel Lilley, has been fighting with prosecutors about how they are providing evidence to him through the discovery process. He has filed two motions to dismiss the original promotion of prostitution case, arguing that prosecutors have not provided him with materials as they should have. A judge turned down the first motion and a decision is pending on the second.
At a proceeding this week, Mills chided prosecutors about how they handled the discovery process and said the case needs to be expedited.
Mills this week also decided not to sign either of the prosecution's proposed orders to keep materials in the case confidential. One would have prevented parties from discussing elements of the case, including evidence, strategy and progress. Mills found there was not good cause for an order.
The Press Herald and the York County Coast Star argued that the state hadn't met the standard to justify such confidentiality.
Mills indicated Tuesday that she would have affidavits for the search warrants of the homes and workplaces of Wright and Strong lifted. No order had been entered as of late Thursday afternoon.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: