August 19, 2013

Accused Zumba client going on trial today

Donald Hill, 53, a former Kennebunk High School hockey coach, claims that he and Alexis Wright were in a relationship.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED — Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning in the trial of a former Kennebunk High School hockey coach accused of hiring Zumba instructor Alexis Wright for sex. He is the first of 68 people accused of engaging Wright for prostitution to take his case to trial since the scandal broke last year.

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Donald Hill, the former Kennebunk High School hockey coach who is charged with engaging zumba fitness instructor Alexis Wright for prostitution in 2011, appears at York County Superior Court in Alfred on Aug. 15, 2013.

AP

Alexis Wright, the fitness instructor who ran a prostitution ring out of her dance studio, enters the courtroom for a hearing at York County Superior Court in Alfred on Aug. 15, 2013. The judge ruled Wright, who's serving a 10-month jail sentence, doesn't have to answer prosecutors' questions in the trial of an accused client.

AP

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At least 58 others have pleaded guilty or pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge. The cases against the others are still pending.

Donald Hill, 53, of Old Orchard Beach has repeatedly denied the charge, pleaded not guilty and said that he believed he and Wright were in a relationship.

Hill's attorney, Gary Prolman, has said Hill was unaware that Wright worked as a prostitute and that his case differed from those of other men charged with engaging Wright for prostitution.

The judge presiding over the trial, Superior Court Justice Roland Cole, delivered a blow to prosecutors -- who had planned to call Wright as a witness -- when he ruled last week that she could exercise her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent for most questions if she is called upon to testify.

That ruling could affect whether Kennebunk police pursue charges against 40 more people whose names appeared in meticulous records Wright kept of the one-woman brothel she ran from her Zumba studio and business office.

Kennebunk police said last week that they are awaiting word from the York County District Attorney's Office before deciding whether to move forward with the investigation of those 40. The lead prosecutors in the case are bound by a court gag order from speaking with the media until after Hill's trial has concluded.

Wright, 30, of Wells, pleaded guilty March 29 to 14 counts of engaging in prostitution and six other misdemeanors, avoiding a trial that attorneys said could have lasted six weeks and created a media spectacle.

In addition to serving jail time, Wright must pay more than $58,000 in fines and restitution, including more than $40,000 for theft of welfare benefits and more than $16,000 in taxes for unreported income.

Wright's plea followed the jury trial of her business partner, Mark Strong Sr., who was convicted March 6 of promotion of prostitution after nearly two weeks of witness testimony.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, has completed his sentence, serving part of a 20-day term in jail.

Strong also has been subpoenaed to testify as a witness at Hill's trial. The judge said he would rule next week during the trial whether Strong can invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

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

sdolan@mainetoday.com

 

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