Judge ends order blocking public access to list of alleged prostitution clients

Mark W. Strong Sr., 57, listens in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland with his attorney Daniel Lilley Tuesday Oct. 9, 2012 where he was arraigned on 59 criminal charges. Those include 12 counts of promotion of prostitution, two counts of conspiracy, and 45 counts of invasion of privacy with an inside device.
Mark W. Strong Sr., 57, listens in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland with his attorney Daniel Lilley Tuesday Oct. 9, 2012 where he was arraigned on 59 criminal charges. Those include 12 counts of promotion of prostitution, two counts of conspiracy, and 45 counts of invasion of privacy with an inside device. Buy Photo
Posted Oct. 09, 2012, at 5:03 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 09, 2012, at 9:12 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Superior Court justice refused to block access to a list of more than 100 potential clients of an alleged prostitution business in Kennebunk on Tuesday, but police and attorneys said those names — some of whom are rumored to be high-profile individuals — will not likely be handed over to the public until later this week.

State prosecutors, who have accused Thomaston businessman Mark Strong and Kennebunk fitness instructor Alexis Wright of running a prostitution operation out of Wright’s zumba studio, filed a motion to keep the list of clients out of the public eye. York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan told the court that investigators may not be filing charges against everybody on the list, and making those names public before the individuals are formally charged could unnecessarily harm their reputations.

But attorneys representing Strong and Wright during a Tuesday hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court told Justice Nancy Mills that prosecutors did not apply similar discretion in the indictments of Strong and Wright.

Strong was arrested on a single charge of promotion of prostitution in July, and Wright was named in publicly accessible court documents related to that arrest months before both were indicted last week on dozens of additional charges tied to the alleged business.

“They took no concern to protect the privacy of my client or Ms. Wright,” Daniel Lilley, the attorney representing Strong, told Mills on Tuesday. “It seems crazy for the state to say now, ‘We don’t want to hurt anybody.’ Well, we don’t want to hurt anybody either, but my client’s business and reputation have been destroyed, and his children have been humiliated.”

Sarah Churchill, the attorney representing Wright, echoed that sentiment in her comments to Mills.

“I take issue with the [state’s concern over the] privacy of the individuals not yet charged,” she said.

Sigmund Schutz, attorney for the Portland-based firm Preti Flaherty, represented the newspapers The York County Coast Star and Portland Press Herald on Tuesday in court, and also argued against keeping the list confidential. Justice Joyce Wheeler, who was presiding over the case before recusing herself last month, had temporarily ordered the names be blocked from public access until the court could give full consideration to a more permanent protection order.

Mills, taking up the case Tuesday, put an end to Wheeler’s order. She said she didn’t feel prosecutors’ concern about the reputations of the individuals on the list rose to a level that would obligate her to restrict access to it, saying it is important for Maine people to see transparency in the court system.

“I haven’t heard any good cause to impose a confidentiality order at this time,” the judge said.

Still, the names on the list were not immediately available Tuesday. Lilley told reporters after leaving the courthouse he would be using the list to build his defense case, but that he would not be turning it over to the media for scrutiny before it is ultimately entered as evidence in the court case.

Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department told the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday that investigators with his department have begun serving alleged clients of the prostitution business with summonses, but said he remains unsure of how many people on the list will be charged.

Burpee said he plans to release the names of the individuals charged so far on Friday. He said the alleged clients hail from “all over,” and that Kennebunk police may need to travel to deliver summonses or ask for help from other departments to serve paperwork in their jurisdictions.

BDN reporter Stephen Betts contributed to this story.

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