The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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October 12, 2012

Zumba prostitution client names remain secret

By TED SHAFFREY and DAVID SHARP

Associated Press

KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) — Residents of a Maine town are going to have to wait at least a few more days before learning if friends and neighbors have been accused of calling on a Zumba instructor charged with being a prostitute.

Kennebunk police declined Friday to release any names because of a court challenge by a lawyer for two of the suspected clients.

The state Supreme Court appeal is aimed at keeping the names confidential. It asks for an expedited hearing that won’t happen until Monday at the earliest.

Alexis Wright, 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 also pleaded not guilty.

A lawyer who has seen the list of johns says it contains more than 150 names.

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.

Based on that information, Kennebunk police have been begun issuing summonses to Wright’s johns on misdemeanor charges of engaging a prostitute. The first names were to be released Friday, but the police department was awaiting word from the courts before proceeding, said Lt. Anthony Burpee.

Lawyer Stephen Schwartz was appealing a decision by a District judge in Biddeford, who declined Thursday night to intervene and stop the release of identities.

He also was asking permission to take the case to Superior Court in Portland, where a judge was handling the case against Wright and business partner, Mark Strong Sr., a 57-year-old insurance agent and private investigator from Thomaston, who has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges.

“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,” Schwartz said.

The existence of the list of johns has fueled speculation about who is on it. Residents have said they’ve heard it could include lawyers, law enforcement officers and some well-known names.

Strong’s attorney, Dan Lilley, has said he has a list of or more than 150 people who were alleged customers, but that he wouldn’t release the names unless they’re called as witnesses if the case goes to trial.

Allison Ackley, who participated in Wright’s Zumba class, said she had no idea that Wright was allegedly leading a double life.

“She was very professional. She was an amazing dancer and she held a good class so I liked going. 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.”

The case has rocked 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.

“It’ll be interesting to see who’s on that list because we’re hearing that there are selectmen, there are policemen, that there are firemen — people that we’re going to know in town,” said local resident Elaine Nicholson. “So everyone is, like, waiting with bated breath.”

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