Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Ann S. Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
A former hockey coach at Kennebunk High School said Wednesday that he is one of the 21 men charged as suspected “johns” of Zumba instructor Alexis Wright.
Donald F. Hill
AP File Photo
Donald F. Hill of 139 Union Ave., Old Orchard Beach, confirmed that he is on the list that police released this week. Hill, reached by telephone, also said he is no longer a hockey coach at the high school.
Hill, 52, declined to comment further and referred questions to his lawyer, Gary Prolman. Prolman did not return a call seeking comment.
The 21 men have been issued court summonses charging them with engaging a prostitute, a misdemeanor, in connection with a scandal that has drawn national media attention to Kennebunk.
Also Wednesday, a key defendant in the case accused Kennebunk police of charging him in retaliation because he investigated their department.
Mark Strong Sr. of Thomaston, who is charged with running the prostitution operation along with Wright, wrote in a statement distributed to the media that “the charges against me are untrue. I have made some bad choices but have broken no laws. If these charges are not dropped I will be vindicated in a jury trial which I have demanded be held as soon as possible.”
Strong has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanors in the case. He has been charged with violation of privacy, promotion of prostitution and conspiracy to commit those crimes.
Wright, 29, is accused of using her Zumba business in downtown Kennebunk, which she began in leased space in March 2010, as a front for prostitution and secretly filmed the encounters. Wright has pleaded not guilty to 106 charges, mostly misdemeanors but also three felonies related to taxes and receiving public assistance when ineligible.
According to a police affidavit, Wright kept “meticulous” records and a client list that lawyers involved in the case have said includes more than 150 names, including those of prominent figures.
It’s not clear how many more alleged “johns” will be charged. Prosecutors indicated in a letter to the court that they likely will charge many of them, and York County Deputy District Attorney Justina
McGettigan said earlier this month that authorities still had to interview more than 80 suspected clients.
In the meantime, police say they are continuing to issue summonses as investigators find probable cause on the charges and schedule times to serve the paperwork.
Hill is one of the 21 men identified so far as having received summonses. He told Kennebunk High’s athletics administrator Tuesday morning that he was not seeking reappointment for personal reasons, said Superintendent Andrew Dolloff.
Coaches for winter sports have not yet been appointed, Dolloff said. The season starts in mid-November and the school district has started advertising the hockey position.
Hill was an assistant coach from 1993 to 1998 and varsity coach from 1998 to 2012. Coaches are appointed annually, Dolloff said, but there’s an assumption that they will return each year, unless they tell school officials otherwise.
The school district does not have a formal policy regarding employees who face a criminal charge, Dolloff said.
“We have to look at every case on a case-by-case basis. Certainly in our hiring, we consider that to be very important, even for our volunteers. Anything more than a traffic violation is something we would take under advisement,” he said.
Dolloff sent a memo to the school staff in early October saying how the impending disclosure of the names could affect students. He said he didn’t know then that Hill was facing a charge in the case.
“I had no idea of any names on the list. I have been as much in the dark as anybody. We were really just trying to prepare for the eventuality that a student might be related” to someone who was charged, Dolloff said.
So far, he said, school officials are not aware that any of the 21 men are related to students or staff members.
Mark Strong Sr.’s statement on Wednesday, issued through his lawyer, Daniel Lilley, asserted his innocence in the case.
Strong, a 57-year-old businessman, wrote that he developed a personal relationship with Wright after meeting her online several years ago, but, “I have never had sex with her for money.”
He said he loaned her money for a legitimate Zumba studio, which she paid back, and co-signed the lease for the space but did not participate in the business.
Strong, who is an insurance agent and a private investigator, claimed in the statement that he was arrested in retaliation for investigating Kennebunk police on Wright’s behalf when she told him she was concerned that they were harassing her. The charges and the confiscation of computers from his home and workplace are part of the retaliation, Strong said.
Strong said his investigation disclosed an incident in which a Kennebunk officer killed a woman by shooting her four times, an apparent reference to the March 27, 2011, shooting of Katherine Paulson, who suffered from mental illness.
Paulson pulled a knife on Officer Joshua Morneau. Strong noted that Morneau was not charged with a crime.
Strong said he also discovered unprofessional conduct by Audra Presby, whom he described as the lead investigator in the prostitution case.
Kennebunk officials released a prepared statement late Wednesday challenging several of Strong’s points.
The town said it never harassed Wright or Strong, and that the searches of both their properties were based on probable cause that a crime had been committed and were approved by a judge.
The town’s statement also challenged Strong’s assertion that his investigation uncovered improper conduct by the town and its officers, namely that officers killed a resident and that Presby had an inappropriate relationship with another officer and was disciplined.
The town noted that the officer-involved shooting was reported by the press and investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office, which cleared the officer of any criminal conduct.
The statement also noted that Presby was disciplined three years ago for having a romantic relationship with another officer. The reprimand is a public record, the other officer resigned and Presby and the other officer are now engaged, the statement said. The incident had nothing to do with the dance studio investigation, the statement said.
Presby did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday afternoon. Sarah Churchill, Wright’s lawyer, declined to comment on Strong’s statement.
Meanwhile, the family of a former South Portland mayor who has been charged in the prostitution case says he no longer lives in South Portland and does not run the family business, A-Best Window.
James A. Soule, 58, was one of the 21 men named this week. Reporters sought out Soule at his former home in South Portland, which police initially listed as his address. He now lists an address in Fort Myers, Fla.
Soule’s son, Adam, released a statement Wednesday saying his father has not lived in South Portland for two years.
Adam Soule said he has been general manager of A-Best Window since July 2010, managing the company’s operations.
“We will continue to have the same group of exemplary employees provide the best products and service to our customers,” Adam Soule said.
Soule, who is listed as the owner of the house where his father once lived, asked for privacy for himself and his family.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:
Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: