Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By Ann S. Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
KENNEBUNK -- Police are preparing to charge suspected johns of an alleged prostitution operation based at a downtown fitness studio now that the two key figures have been indicted.
Investigators are drafting summonses and making arrangements to serve them, Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department said Thursday.
Bean Burpee could not say how many summonses will be issued, but prosecutors have indicated they expect many of the individuals on a client list will be charged. The list apparently has the names of more than 150 individuals and includes prominent figures.
Some suspected clients and their lawyers have been in contact with police or the district attorney's office. Police are setting up appointments to serve those individuals and will have to locate others who have not been interacting with authorities, Bean Burpee said.
Police will issue the summonses in batches, Bean Burpee said, and the first will likely have a court date in about six to eight weeks.
"No one's been served at this point," Bean Burpee said.
Engaging a prostitute is a misdemeanor. First-time offenders face fines but no jail time.
Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan would not discuss the case Wednesday, citing the instructions of Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler to not disseminate information about evidence.
"The state does not feel we're at liberty to comment on the case," McGettigan said.
The news about the summonses follows the indictment of Zumba instructor Alexis Wright of Wells and Mark Strong Sr., a Thomaston insurance agent and private investigator.
A York County grand jury indicted Wright, 29, on 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, a variety of tax offenses and charges related to receiving welfare benefits when ineligible because of income. Three of the counts are felonies and the rest are misdemeanors.
Strong was indicted on 59 misdemeanor counts, including promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy. Strong, who had been arrested on a single count of promotion of prostitution in July, had been the sole person charged until the grand jury rose this week.
The indictments do not include the names of the individuals of the alleged victims of invasion of privacy or those who are suspected of paying money for sex.
Authorities have video footage of Wright having sex with men who were unaware they were being filmed, a ledger key with prices for various acts and "meticulous" client records, according to a police affidavit made public this summer. The items were found during a Valentine's Day search of Wright's Pura Vida studio in Kennebunk, a nearby office space and her home in Wells.
The invasion of privacy charges against Wright and Strong aren't altered if the offense was committed by a john also engaged in illegal activity, according to Chris Northrop, a University of Maine School of Law professor who is part of the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic faculty.
"As far as criminal liability, it shouldn't affect it at all," he said.
The statute doesn't speak to the possibility that a victim of one crime is a perpetrator of another, so that scenario doesn't come into the legal analysis, Northrop said. A common example of an offender being a victim, he said, is a drug dealer whose home is broken into and robbed.
While authorities say they have video footage of sexual acts performed by Wright, it isn't clear how incriminating it would be.
The rules of evidence on photographic material require someone to attest to its authenticity as an accurate representation of what took place, Northrop said. Video footage could only be entered into evidence at a trial if someone can explain facts such as where the camera was located and when it was running, he said.
"In order to get that you need to have someone who was in the room," he said.