October 29, 2012

Affidavits in Kennebunk prostitution case remain sealed

The judge had said the filings would be made public Oct. 9. Now the newspaper will seek an end to the impoundment.

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

BIDDEFORD — Three weeks after a judge said she would unseal affidavits for search warrants in the Kennebunk prostitution case, the affidavits remain impounded.

click image to enlarge

Alexis Wright, left, with her lawyer, Sarah Churchill, during Wright's arraignment Oct. 10 at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Mark Strong Sr.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

During an Oct. 9 hearing in the cases of Alexis Wright of Wells and Mark Strong Sr. of Thomaston, Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills said she would have the documents unsealed by that afternoon. It's not clear why the affidavits are still sealed.

Wright, a 29-year-old Zumba instructor, is accused of engaging in prostitution at her Kennebunk fitness studio and secretly taping the encounters. Strong, a 57-year-old businessman and Wright's alleged business partner, is accused of promoting the alleged operation.

Authorities searched the homes and workplaces of Wright and Strong in February. The search warrant affidavits were sealed in Biddeford District Court at the time of Strong's arrest in July and were later resealed at the request of York County District Attorney Justina McGettigan.

The prosecutor had asked that the affidavits, the initial determinations of probable cause and the inventory lists from the searches be impounded so investigators could complete their investigation. The reason McGettigan offered in her motions was that the seized items expanded the scope of the investigation.

The Sept. 19 order for one of the affidavits indicates the seal would expire in 60 days or until further court order, whichever came first. The Oct. 1 order for the other affidavit stated that the impoundment would end after 90 days.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram is asking the District Attorney's Office to request that the court lift the seal, said Sigmund Schutz, the newspapers' lawyer. He said he will deliver a letter to that effect Tuesday.

Schutz noted that the search warrants have already been executed, and he questioned whether there is any compelling reason to keep them sealed.

"We don't believe there is a valid basis for a seal on these records. We're asking them to notify the court that the time has come to lift the seal," he said.

Strong was arrested in July on a single count of promotion of prostitution. In early October, he was indicted on 59 counts of promotion of prostitution, invasion of privacy and conspiracy. Wright was indicted on 106 counts, primarily for prostitution and invasion of privacy but also three felonies associated with taxes and illegally receiving public assistance benefits.

Each has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

McGettigan did not returns calls seeking comment Monday. District Attorney Kathryn Slattery issued a news release earlier this month that stated her office will not comment on any pending cases.

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

akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH

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