Saturday, March 8, 2014
ALFRED — Alexis Wright, the former Zumba instructor who ran a prostitution business from her studio in Kennebunk, claims she was conned by her business partner into believing she was a secret operative working for the state "to investigate all manner of sexual deviants."
Alexis Wright, left, listens to her lawyer Sarah Churchill during a court hearing last year. She will be sentenced Friday.
"At first blush, this seems too farfetched for anyone to believe. Nevertheless, text messages between Ms. Wright and Mark Strong Sr. bear it out," Wright's attorney, Sarah Churchill, says in an eight-page sentencing memorandum filed Thursday in York County Superior Court.
Wright, 30, is due to be sentenced Friday as the central figure in a case that drew international attention. She pleaded guilty to 20 misdemeanors on March 29 in an agreement with prosecutors, avoiding a trial that Churchill estimated would have lasted six weeks and been a media "spectacle."
The agreement calls for Wright to serve 10 months in jail and 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.
In return, prosecutors dropped 86 of the 106 counts against Wright and reduced the three most serious charges -- for tax and state welfare violations -- from felonies to misdemeanors.
The case first made headlines when police raided Wright's Zumba studio and business office in Kennebunk and her home in Wells on Valentine's Day 2012.
She was accused of conspiring with Strong, 57, of Thomaston, to run a one-woman prostitution business from the Zumba studio, keeping extensive records and video recordings of her sex acts with customers.
Police and prosecutors have said Wright had the names of more than 140 clients in her ledger and took in at least $150,000 from the business from July 2010 to February 2012.
So far, 68 people have been charged with engaging Wright for prostitution. Many of them have pleaded guilty. Kennebunk police have said they are investigating another 40 suspects before deciding whether to charge them this summer.
Strong was convicted in March for 13 misdemeanors -- 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy with Wright, in a trial in York County Superior Court.
Justice Nancy Mills sentenced Strong to serve 20 days in jail and pay a $3,000 fine. Strong was released after serving 15 days, getting credit for good behavior.
The evidence presented at Strong's trial would have been particularly damning for Wright. One video played for the jury shows her having sex with a man and then collecting a stack of cash from him.
Mills will preside over Wright's sentencing and decide whether to accept the terms recommended by prosecutors and Wright's attorney.
Churchill said in her sentencing argument that many factors from Wright's personal life went into her decision to plead guilty to reduced charges.
"Most of the details are very personal and very painful," Churchill wrote, adding that she would give more details at Friday's hearing.
Wright was sexually abused by her father, Randy Wright, for years, Churchill wrote. Her father is a registered sex offender, convicted in federal court of possession of child pornography, though not in connection with abuse of his daughter.
Strong, a successful businessman who is a licensed private investigator, played a fatherly role for Wright, saying in text messages that she was like the daughter he never had, Churchill says in her memorandum.
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