Suspense grows in Kennebunk prostitution case

Associated Press

Kennebunk

KENNEBUNK — Residents of this seaside community will have to wait at least the weekend to learn which of their friends and neighbors stand accused of giving business to a fitness instructor charged with running a prostitution operation out of her Zumba studio.

The police department declined Friday to release any of the more than 150 names of suspected clients because of an appeal pending before the state supreme court.

The delay prolongs the agony for town residents, who have heard that the list of could include lawyers, law enforcement officers and some well-known people.

"We're hearing that there are selectmen, there are policemen, that there are firemen — people that we're going to know in town," said Elaine Nicholson. "So everyone is, like, waiting with bated breath."

Alexis Wright, a 29-year-old fitness instructor from the nearby town of Wells, has pleaded not guilty to prostitution, invasion of privacy and other charges for allegedly accepting money for sex and secretly videotaping her encounters. Her business partner, Mark Strong Sr., a 57-year-old insurance agent and private investigator from Thomaston, pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges. Their lawyers did not immediately return messages Friday.

Searches of Wright's studio and office turned up video recordings of sexual acts, billing information and meticulous records about clients, according to court documents.

Kennebunk police have begun issuing summonses to Wright's suspected johns on misdemeanor charges of engaging a prostitute. The first set of names was supposed to be released Friday, but police held off because of the legal action.

A lawyer for two men on the list filed an appeal Friday to challenge a decision by a district judge who declined to halt the public release.

"We believe very strongly that their names ought not be released. The mere releasing of their names will have devastating consequences in a case in which the government, we believe, will have great difficulty proving," said the lawyer, Stephen Schwartz.

Schwartz took the case to the state Supreme Judicial Court and vowed "to fight to the end for our clients."

The appeal asked the court for an expedited hearing on the appeal. The earliest that can happen is Monday.

"We fully expect that they won't be convicted, but the damage is done once the horse is out of the barn," he said.

The prostitution charges and ensuing publicity — which reached across the country and beyond — came as a shock in this small town, which is well-known for its ocean beaches, old sea captains' mansions and the neighboring town of Kennebunkport, home to the Bush family's Walker's Point summer compound.

Some people say they had their suspicions about Wright, but others were totally in the dark about the energetic dance instructor who introduced many local women to Zumba, a Latin-flavored dance and fitness program.

Alison Ackley, who participated in Wright's class, said she had no inkling she might have been leading a double life.

"She was very professional. She was an amazing dancer and she held a good class, so I liked going," Ackley said. "I thought she was a little, not risque, but a little flirtatious with a couple of the male participants in the class. But it's Zumba. You're there to have fun. I didn't think anything of it."

Her mom, Kim Ackley, said she hopes the names are released soon so people can move on with their lives.

"The list will be released eventually. They're just doing everything they can to stall it," she said. "Everybody is really ready to see who's on the list."

Not everyone wants the list to be released, however.

"Do I agree that what the men did was right? No. But I think it's a matter for the police, and not for us to know," said Josiah Currier, a resident.

Sharp reported from Portland.

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Comments

Andrew Jones's picture

They better be sure that

They better be sure that everyone on the list is guilty. If someone's name on the legal side of her business ended up listed as a client of her illegal activities, can you say lawsuit?

If the public cares so much, why don't they wait until the police sort out and start charging the clients so their names end up in the district court logs? Releasing a premature list is just irresponsible.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Really?

Okay, the Zumba teacher has her face all over the papers and is accused of prostitution. No privacy for her. Getting stung, she'll have a fine to pay, maybe some jail time, who knows. But her legal business is sunk. What will be left for her to do to earn a living if her legal business is sunk?

Now what about the Johns? I am probably as curious as anyone else, but what good will splashing their names all over the media do to the community? Any of the married men should be ashamed and penitent for what they have done to their wives. But do we need to make it public? What will be the result? How many divorces and broken families will come of it? How about their professional lives? Will they continue to keep working? If they hold a public position, will the public demand their ouster? Bill Clinton was able to keep his job.

Outside of curiousity, what will announcing their names accomplish?

(No, I haven't "visited" this zumba teacher). Just saying, is it really so important to know the names and destroy lives and families?

AL PELLETIER's picture

Clinton didn't pay for it.

Those horny idiots should have taken all those consequences you just mentioned before plunking their money down on the bed!

AL PELLETIER's picture

OOPS

left out "into consideration"

Release the list..

I agree that nobody is so important that their names should not be released. If you want to play, then you have to pay. They are not any better than her if they used her services. If she has to pay for what she did, then the men should have to pay. They are so ready to brand her a prostitute, but if she didn't have customers, then there wouldn't be a problem here.. Can you say scum...

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Thank goodness for mthe "Double Standard"

If your one of those people who think your important, and you enjoy a foray or two behind closed doors with a hooker, maybe you can relax. Evidently, if your important, even in your own mind, you have the right to request to remain anonymous. The rest of us "unimportant peons, don't seem to matter. We, apparently are not above the law. If your that important type, there's always the old Wink,Wink/Nod,Nod. Don't forget the huge smile to convince us your really a nice guy. You know full well, that your just one well placed campaign contribution away from a pass on this one. Well, I have a message for the judge, and the important folks.
In this world there are no important people, just people who think their important. No one is above the law, If the dish washer in the town diner, would be identified, than the Mayor, police officer or lawyer should also be identified. I just get so sick of these self made elitist types, who feel they are invincible. If I were them, I don't think I would worry so much about the list, I'd be worried about when the MOVIE is coming out........

AL PELLETIER's picture

How true Frank

The only difference I can see is that the dishwasher doesn't have the bucks to pay lawyers to file appeals. If any judge in this land refuses to let the law and the press run it's normal course in this matter then he or she should be charged with obstruction of justice and promoting prostitution.
PS. I'm not on the list!

David Marsters's picture

Prostitution

If the John's were minorities the names would have been listed right away. Maybe a Bush name will show up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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