April 2, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Editorial on Zumba case lacks perspective

Your editorial of March 23, titled "Our View: Zumba prosecution critics off the mark," was itself off the mark. It's time for perspective. It is time for reality.

click image to enlarge

Attorney Dan Lilley, left, with Mark Strong Sr., whom Lilley defended on charges of promoting prostitution, says an editorial supporting the decision to prosecute the case bought into an overstated view of the case’s legal significance.

2013 File Photo/John Ewing

Your paper has obsessed, speculated and opined that this prostitution case was a setup for extortion. It was not.

Early on in this investigation, as soon as the police started interviewing the johns from "the list" that they seized from Alexis Wright's property on Valentine's Day 2011, it became evident that there was no evidence or even suggestion of extortion. Your support of spending so much on so little is misplaced.

This case is the most overinvestigated, overcharged, overprosecuted, overtried, overpublicized and overspent case in memory in Maine.

No fewer than six prosecutors, from the District Attorney's Office to the Attorney General's Office, were involved. Twenty-two investigative agencies, including the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Secret Service, got in on the spree; they devoured tons of taxpayer money watching, listening to and analyzing evidence concerning the sexual acts of one young woman.

This frenzied prosecution became a law enforcement binge driven by local, national and international media.

The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer for Maine. The law enforcement buck stops there; but it didn't.

In fact, the attorney general was complicit in the excesses of this case: The attorney general specifically authorized a silly appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court arguing that people engaged in prostitution in Maine have the right to privacy.

They even put the name of the head of the Attorney General's Office's criminal division prominently on the cover of that losing brief. (The law court unanimously upheld the dismissal of 46 out of 59 of the misdemeanor counts or 70 percent of the state's charges because they alleged no crimes.)

All these shenanigans while potential jurors were patiently waiting to be selected for the trial in York County.

And speaking of the jury, more than 100 citizens were summoned to the basement of the courthouse for a week of "hurry up and wait," then interrogation. The final 12 selected spent nearly three weeks of their valuable time, away from their jobs, looking at evidence that soon became old, repetitive and tiresome.

But they didn't get any of the big bucks the state and federal folks spent (estimated to total six figures). They got $10 a day and 16 cents a mile for travel costs: That comes to less than $2 an hour. Slave wages, indeed. And the jury had the toughest job of all.

This is the reality of this case.

Mark Strong has dismissed his appeal. He is paying his debt to society.

Dan Lilley

attorney for Mark Strong Sr., defendant in Kennebunk prostitution trial

Portland

Funds spent on immigrants as citizens struggle to get by

Leslie Bridgers' article about recent immigration to Maine ("Immigrants find havens – in Portland suburbs," March 24) shows us exactly why the current immigration system is broken.

To put it bluntly, underprivileged Maine citizens are being brushed aside and forced to compete for scarce resources. As of January 2013, Maine's unemployment rate stood at 7.3 percent; there is a long-term unemployment crisis in this nation and our state.

Ms. Bridgers writes that "nearly half of the households that applied for general assistance from the city (Westbrook) identified themselves as immigrant or refugee."

How much is it costing Maine citizens to support these recent arrivals? Why are they allowed to move here if they can't even find work? How much are taxpayers charged to fund English as a Second Language and other programs?

This is all underscored by the fact that President Obama, most Democrats and some major Republicans want to grant amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, thousands of service members have been forced to retire early in the past few years. Border Patrol agents had their salaries cut by up to 40 percent. Something is definitely not right in this country.

Immigrants are not bad people. But a principle of patriotism is placing the urgent needs of your fellow citizens first. And when tens of thousands of Maine citizens struggle to make ends meet and are unable to find jobs, then it's high time to change some policies.

Immigration should be drastically reduced until we can find jobs and guarantee assistance for unemployed Mainers and Americans.

Benjamin Holmes

Portland

Baxter, school choice claims both merit thorough review

Thank you for juxtaposing the perils of charter schools next to the promotion of school choice.

I am a retired public-school teacher and a private-school parent who strongly disagrees with the diversion of public funds to finance corporate schools.

My experience with the accumulated costs of private education leads me to believe that a single voucher would not be adequate to pay for them.

Textbooks and materials, sports and activity fees, transportation and meals are only some of the many elements of private education that are not covered within the umbrella of tuition.

Parents must pay for them separately.

I'm not sure how that is done in a charter school format, but that was my arrangement with the private institution I sent my son to. The cost was easily another quarter to half of what I initially paid in tuition.

Kudos, then, to Portland Mayor Michael Brennan for insisting on an accounting ("Portland mayor calls for AG probe of charter school," March 22).

As for the Governor's Forum on Education ("LePage conference touts school choice, but not all are convinced," March 22), I think it would be more productive to attribute Florida's success to their institution of a designated student-to-teacher ratio and to the documented success of their statewide, comprehensive literacy program than to the unsubstantiated claims of charter schools and voucher schemes.

John M. Flagler

Alfred

 

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