November 13, 2012

Four men plead guilty in Kennebunk prostitution case

Meanwhile, Justice Nancy Mills agrees Alexis Wright and Mark Strong Sr. should not be tried together.

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

PORTLAND — Four men have admitted to being clients of Alexis Wright, the former Zumba instructor who is charged with running a prostitution operation in Kennebunk.

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The trials of Alexis Wright and Mark Strong Sr. were severed by Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills.

File photo

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The men have pleaded guilty to engaging a prostitute in the case, according to The Associated Press.

The four, who entered pleas in York County Superior Court in Alfred, were not summoned by police so their names did not appear on any of the three lists that Kennebunk police have released since Oct. 16.

Gary Prolman, a lawyer who represents one of the four men, said his client was not trying to circumvent the process.

"He was doing an honorable thing. He was paying his fine. He was accepting responsibility for his actions and didn't want to put the state through what would probably be a $10,000 trial," Prolman said Tuesday.

Including the four men who have pleaded guilty, at least 58 men have been charged with engaging a prostitute, which is a misdemeanor. Authorities say Wright had a list of clients with as many as 150 names.

Kennebunk police have said they are issuing summonses as they find probable cause to charge the suspected "johns." The first 21 men charged are due in Biddeford District Court on Dec. 5.

Wright and Mark Strong Sr., the key figures in the case that has drawn international media attention, will not be tried together. Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills has ruled that joining their trials would be prejudicial to both.

The lawyers for both defendants filed motions Friday asking for separate trials.

Mills wrote in her order that the two cases are on different courses. In a separate order, Mills put Strong's case on the January trial list for York County.

Wright is accused of prostituting herself and secretly taping the encounters. A York County grand jury indicted her last month on 106 counts -- misdemeanor offenses of promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution and invasion of privacy, and three felonies related to taxes and accepting public assistance when ineligible because of illegal income.

Wright's client list reportedly included prominent figures. The most prominent person charged so far is James A. Soule, a former mayor of South Portland.

Strong, a businessman from Thomaston, has been indicted on 59 misdemeanor charges of promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

Each has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Strong, who was first charged in July before being indicted last month, has demanded a speedy trial. His lawyer, Daniel Lilley, wanted a trial date before Christmas.

Delaying Strong's trial or expediting Wright's would be prejudicial, Mills wrote in her order, dated Friday. The judge also noted that the number of charges that aren't common to the two defendants would make joining the cases prejudicial.

Among the other reasons that Mills cited for separating the trials is the prosecution's statement about child pornography at a hearing last month.

During the proceeding, the prosecution mentioned "markers" for child pornography found on a computer that was seized from Strong.

Mills wrote that it appears that evidence against one defendant -- presumably Strong -- would be inadmissible and prejudicial to the other defendant.

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

akim@pressherald.com

Twitter: AnnKimPPH

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