October 26, 2012

Lawyer angry police released names of alleged Kennebunk 'johns'

The attorney for two men named in the high-profile prostitution case says police should have waited.

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

The attorney for a former Kennebunk High School hockey coach and other men who are charged with being "johns" of Zumba instructor Alexis Wright is angry that the defendants' names were released before a court reviewed his attempt to block the disclosure.

Gary Prolman said he filed a motion in York County Superior Court in Alfred on Friday arguing that the suspected prostitution clients' names should not be revealed because they are also alleged victims of violation of privacy.

Kennebunk police released the first round of names Monday evening after a judge rejected a similar argument by Stephen Schwartz, an attorney for several other defendants.

Prolman said Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee, the department's spokesman, told him he would not release the names until the motions were heard. "I just feel like I've been duped," Prolman said Thursday.

Bean Burpee said he never made such a promise and told Prolman that police were waiting on a resolution of Schwartz's case. Schwartz made an argument to the court about a statute that addresses the confidentiality of information about crime victims.

"I said we're holding off until we hear what's going on with the court, and that's what we did," Bean Burpee said.

Prolman has two clients who are among the 21 men charged with engaging a prostitute, a misdemeanor, in the scandal that has drawn national media attention to Kennebunk. One is Donald F. Hill, who told school officials this week that he was not pursuing reappointment as Kennebunk High's varsity hockey coach for personal reasons.

Prolman said Hill, a friend with whom he coached hockey, is devastated. Prolman said what happened between Hill, who he said was not married at the time, and Wright was between consenting adults in what Hill believed was a private place.

"Don Hill is one of the most caring, gracious human beings I've ever been around," Prolman said. "He has 20 years of coaching down at Kennebunk that he had to give up because he didn't want them to go through all this. That's the kind of selfless person Don Hill is."

Wright, 29, is accused of using her Zumba business in downtown Kennebunk as a front for prostitution and secretly filming the encounters. She has pleaded not guilty to 106 charges, all misdemeanors except for three felonies related to taxes and receiving public assistance when ineligible.

According to a police affidavit, Wright kept "meticulous" client records that have come to be known as "the list." Lawyers in the case have said it contains more than 150 names, including those of prominent figures.

The first people charged as prostitution clients include men from the building trades, real estate, law and financial services. Most are from southern Maine, one is from Boston and another is from New Hampshire. Their ages range from 34 to 65.

York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan has said in court that prosecutors plan to bring charges only against those they can convict without the cooperation of others.

Police plan to include the names of those charged in their bi-weekly news releases. Bean Burpee has said there is no plan for how many names will be released at a time. He said police are issuing summonses as they find probable cause for the charge and schedule appointments to serve the paperwork.

Timothy Zerillo, who represents a Saco man whose name was released this week, said the order in which people are being charged appears to be random.

His client, John Verreault, 50, is a "normal guy," a businessman whose family has been deeply affected, Zerillo said.

The lawyer said Verreault has been subjected to constant inquires from the media since his name was disclosed and looks forward to his day in court.

"These guys are taking an absolute beating," Zerillo said. "The state and the media have hung a flashing neon sign around their neck."

Prolman said he is still pursuing the action he filed last week. The damage has been done to two of his clients, he said, but his other clients -- and others who are accused -- could benefit.

He is demanding jury trials and discovery materials for Hill and his other client on the list of 21. "I'm going to put the state through hell like they put my clients through hell and see how they like it," he said.

The attorney for a key defendant in the case, Mark Strong Sr. of Thomaston, continued to criticize Kennebunk police, claiming they are singling him out for punishment.

Strong was arrested in July, while Wright and the first group of accused "johns" were not charged until this month.

Strong has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanors including violation of privacy, promotion of prostitution and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

On Wednesday, Strong distributed a statement to the media through his attorney, Daniel Lilley, accusing police of retaliating against him because he investigated them on Wright's behalf.

The town fired back with a release that said Strong had portrayed the department and one of its officers in a false light.

Strong accused Audra Presby, the department's investigator on the case, of having an improper relationship with a superior officer. The town said she was reprimanded with a letter at the time and is now engaged to that officer, who resigned at the time of the incident.

Strong wrote in the statement that he had made some bad choices but had not broken any laws. Lilley told reporters Thursday that the case against Strong is "a witch hunt."

He clarified that Strong was not claiming in his statement to be the first to have discovered the improper relationship between Presby and the superior officer. Lilley said two other officers in the department had a questionable relationship. Kennebunk Town Attorney William Dale responded to Lilley's latest accusations, saying, "As the P.D. said in its news release yesterday, it's not going to engage in efforts to try this case in the media."

Staff Writer David Hench contributed to this report.

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

akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH

 

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