August 20, 2013

Judge acquits alleged john in Kennebunk prostitution trial

By Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

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.

click image to enlarge

Accused prostitution client Donald Hill listens Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 during arguments at York County Superior Court in Alfred. Hill was acquitted Tuesday.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

Alexis Wright

AP File Photo

Additional Photos Below

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."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Donald Hill, left, appears with his attorney, Gary Prolman, outside York County Superior Court on Tuesday after being acquitted on a charge of engaging a prostitute.

Photo by Scott Dolan / Staff Writer


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