Small Maine town caught up in prostitution scandal
KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) — Quiet little Kennebunk, a New England town of beaches and sea captain’s mansions, has been thrust into the media spotlight after a 29-year-old Zumba instructor was charged this month with engaging in prostitution in her dance studio and in an office across the street.
The scandal is ensnaring some prominent men from around the region and has forced the resignation of a long-time high school hockey coach.
Investigators say Alexis Wright videotaped many encounters without her clients’ knowledge and kept meticulous records suggesting the sex acts generated $150,000 over 18 months.
Police this week released the names, ages and addresses of 21 men who received summonses after being accused of engaging a prostitute, including a former mayor and several businessmen in southern Maine.
Men from Massachusetts and New Hampshire also are on the list, and many more names will be released in the coming weeks. A lawyer who’s seen the list said more than 150 people are suspected of being johns.
A long-time high school hockey coach whose name appeared on the list became the first known client to resign his job because of the scandal.
Kennebunk High School coach Donald Hill, 52, told school officials he wouldn’t seek to renew his contract for next season after 14 years as head coach, school Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said Wednesday. The coach cited personal reasons, Dolloff said.
Hill’s lawyer, Gary Prolman, said Thursday that his client’s name never should have been made public and contended law enforcement agencies have engaged in “reckless and outrageous behavior.”
Prolman said he finds it “revolting” that Hill felt compelled to give up the job he loved because of the unproven charge that he engaged a prostitute.
“I used to think that in the United States you were innocent until proven guilty and you don’t lose everything because of an accusation. I guess that’s all changed now,” Prolman said. “I’m pretty disgusted with the whole judicial process right now.”
Wright, the Zumba instructor, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts of prostitution, invasion of privacy and other charges. Her business partner, 57-year-old insurance agent and private investigator Mark Strong Sr., has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges.
Wright, 29, was previously described as a single mom. But she’s married and lives with her husband and a child from another relationship, said her lawyer, Sarah Churchill.
Strong said in a statement through his attorney that he did not engage in any criminal activity.
He said he helped Wright launch her Pure Vida studio by co-signing for her lease and loaning money that was repaid with interest. He also said they had a personal relationship but that he never paid for sex.
“The charges against me are untrue,” Strong said in the written statement. “I have made some bad choices but have broken no laws.”
A lawyer for two of the accused johns went to court to keep the names confidential because many of them could be victims of invasion of privacy, a crime for which victims’ identities are kept confidential in Maine.
The judge initially allowed names but not ages or addresses to be made public, causing confusion because many innocent men shared the same names as the accused. The judge later allowed the full identities to be made public. The list included a former mayor, a lawyer and several businessmen, in addition to Hill.
Prolman called the judge’s ruling “ridiculous” and described the amount of state resources thrown into the case to be “outrageous.”
“There’s got to be drug rings, murder cases or other things that are a hell of a lot more important than this,” the attorney said.
The police department plans to release the remaining names of clients every other week as they are issued summonses. The next batch is due Oct. 26.
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