Don Hill is named on the much-anticipated and now infamous list of men charged in connection with the Kennebunk Zumba studio prostitution case.

There are at least 20 Don or Donald Hills living in Maine; 25 more in neighboring New Hampshire.

James White is also named on the list.

There are 59 James Whites living in Maine; 54 in New Hampshire.

How many men with these names live elsewhere is impossible to determine and any one of them could have found their way to Alexis Wright’s studio in Kennebunk.

So, just who is on the list anyway?

James White the doctor? James White the home builder? Or James White the public school principal?

Left up to the court, Kennebunk Police Department and the involved John Does, we would not know because these parties would have preferred to keep the addresses — and thus the identities — of the alleged “johns” private.

Public pressure forced their collective hand Tuesday, just 24 hours after the court’s initial ruling shielding these addresses.

In his order Monday to Kennebunk Police to release the list of names of those summonsed in connection to this case, Superior Court Justice Thomas Warrant declined to order the release of home addresses that would have clearly and precisely identified the named defendants. In doing so, he indicted – in the court of public opinion – anyone who carries the same or similar name of any of the listed defendants.

Warren, despite the fact that Maine law is crystal clear on the fact that summonses — and all information contained on each slip — are defined as original records of entry and are public records under the Criminal History Information Act, sided with the John Does’ argument that releasing addresses for those charged with engaging in prostitution was protected because these men are also “potential victims” of invasion of privacy.

The men have been charged; that is known. Whether they are victims is not yet known, and yet the unknown and the may-never-be-known prevailed over the known public record.

That doesn’t make sense.

When releasing the names under court order, the Kennebunk Police Department also passed judgment in its statement that it would not release ages or addresses as they would “contribute to ‘identifying’ those who may be alleged victims of invasion of privacy.”

Huh?

Never mind that the court order didn’t even address the question of releasing ages, police officers across this state — including at the Kennebunk Police Department — write affidavits to substantiate charges as a matter of routine that can and often do identify victims in great detail.

In affidavits, even in cases of sexual assault, the names of alleged victims are included and become part of the public record as soon as  defendants make initial court appearances. In cases where the crime occurred at the victim’s home, the address can also be included.

In grand jury indictments, a victim’s hometown is listed if the crime occurs in the victim’s dwelling and, of course, victims are identified in more detail during public court proceedings regardless of where crimes occur.

In this particular case, withholding the address information wrongly identified men who have no connection to this case whatsoever.

“The list” was initially ordered released at 3:20 p.m. Monday and contained first and last names, immediately fueling the rumor mill. To tamp the rumors down a bit, just before noon on Tuesday a more detailed list that included the alleged johns’ middle initials was released.

That secondary list more clearly identified the defendants, but still hauled seven Maine men named Donald F. Hill and seven men named James P. White under suspicion in what has become a case of high public (and prurient) interest.

That’s more than unfair to the men who are not involved. It’s damaging to their reputations, their personal relationships and — possibly — their livelihoods.

Tuesday afternoon, under intense public pressure, the court reversed its decision and ordered the release of names, ages and addresses of 21 men charged in this case.

It was the right decision and should never have been delayed.

In this case or any case, the public has a right to know — with precision — who has been charged, with exacting identification.

But, far more importantly, the public has an absolute right to know that our police departments and our courts are impartial and treat every defendant precisely the same, regardless of social status or ability to hire top legal counsel.

We all must be treated equally under the law.

As Justice Warren pointed out in his initial ruling, “the principle that court proceedings are public is essential to public confidence.”

That confidence is lost in the Kennebunk case.

That’s the real crime here.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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