March 4, 2013

Letters to the editor: Zumba case usurps prosecutors' resources

I am wondering if anyone besides myself feels that the amount of resources devoted to the Wright-Strong prostitution case is excessive.

click image to enlarge

Alexis Wright, middle, leaves the courtroom with her lawyer Sarah Churchill as Mark Strong Sr. talks with his lawyer after their arraignments Oct. 9 on charges of running a prostitution ring.

2012 File Photo/Tim Greenway

The Maine Sunday Telegram reported last year that only about 40 percent of the operating-under-the-influence cases in York County are fully prosecuted ("OUI conviction rates vary widely across Maine," July 22, 2012). The reason given was lack of judicial and prosecutorial resources.

In my 37 years as a police officer in York County, I have seen so many cases involving much more serious crimes bargained away to virtually nothing.

OUI cases are pled out to driving to endanger. Drug cases are reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, aggravated assaults are bargained to simple assaults, burglaries are reduced to trespass and theft. Convicted felons in possession of firearms typically face a $500 fine and probation.

I think when the entire caseload is inspected, York County will have devoted a disproportional amount of resources to the case.

While prostitution is not always a victimless crime, as pimps in the cities prey on young runaway girls, in this case the alleged prostitute appears to have entered "the world's oldest profession" voluntarily and seemed to have been making a great deal of money from it.

A couple of things from my University of Maine classes in the 1960s have remained in my admittedly aging memory.

One of these is that the most basic definition of economics is the allocation of scarce resources.

The second is that crimes are divided into two types, "mala in se" and "mala prohibita," the former being translated as "bad in itself by nature," and the latter being "bad by law." Prostitution generally falls under the area of mala prohibita.

Is this case the wisest allocation of resources, given the existing caseload and the types of cases that are not being fully prosecuted due to lack of these resources? I think we must look at cases as to what their social costs are, and allocation of time and money should be considered in that light.

Kent C. Berdeen

West Kennebunk

Mainers with bioptics merit access to driving privileges

A bill to permit the use of bioptic spectacles by Maine drivers has been proposed by Rep. Andrew T. Mason of Topsham.

Bioptic glasses are currently legal in 39 other states, permitting drivers with less-than-perfect vision to continue driving safely.

They have been used in some states since the 1970s. Drivers with bioptic glasses currently drive in some of the most challenging driving conditions, in states where they are legal, such as Boston, New York City and Los Angeles.

Although it is currently not legal for a Maine driver to use a bioptic to pass a driving exam and drive on a Maine road, a driver from neighboring New Hampshire, for example, may drive on Maine roads, using a driver's license obtained while wearing bioptic glasses.

In fact, drivers from any of the states permitting bioptic glasses for driving legally drive in Maine. We are already sharing our roadway with drivers wearing bioptic glasses, although it is still not legal for a Maine driver!

In a rural state such as ours, with few public transportation options, this legislation is important for some Maine residents to keep jobs and independence that they might otherwise lose, along with their driver's license, as a result of a vision loss that could be accommodated using bioptic glasses.

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