RENEE ORDWAY

Jig may be up for ‘Zumba exercisers’ on the list

Posted Oct. 12, 2012, at 3:47 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 12, 2012, at 5 p.m.

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Renee Ordway
Renee Ordway

I’m guessing the phrase “Honey, I’m heading to my Zumba class” has taken on a whole new meaning in southern Maine.

The gents on the client list may not have been partaking in much Zumba while at Alexis Wright’s downtown Kennebunk studio, but there surely is a lot of dancing going on now — by lawyers in the courtroom and, I’m guessing, behind the closed doors of the homes of those who are alleged to have been enjoying Ms. Wright’s company.

Though attorneys representing some on that list have been making last-minute and desperate attempts to persuade judges to block the public release of “the list,” it would appear that for many the jig is most certainly up.

In case you missed it, Wright, of Wells, and her business associate, Mark Strong of Thomaston, have been charged with multiple crimes, including running a prostitution business out of Wright’s Zumba Studio in downtown Kennebunk for the past year and a half or so.

And by all published accounts, Wright was allegedly a very busy woman, kept meticulous records of her 150 or so clients and also secretly videotaped them having sex with her.

Boy, oh boy, that sounds like the investigators might have some pretty good evidence on their side.

Prostitution stories always get a fair amount of press coverage in Maine, but this one has gone national. That’s in part, of course, because of the size of her client list and the fact that the scandal occurred in one of Maine’s most famous towns, known for its quaintness and proximity to Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport. But on top of that, Strong’s attorney, Daniel Lilley, an infamous fellow himself, let it slip that the list was peppered with “prominent” people, like doctors and lawyers and even a TV personality.

Oh, my!

Investigators have indicated they will be releasing the names of those clients who have been charged with a crime, and they started handing out summonses last week.

The names of people charged with crimes are public information, unless the accused are juveniles, but lawyers here seem to be arguing that even though they have been charged it would be just too damaging to release their clients’ names.

In one document filed with the court Thursday night, one of those charged was described as being “disabled with children and a productive member of society.”

His lawyer argued that the charge against his client was so notorious it would severely harm his reputation and his family and professional relationships.

Hmmmm. Should we start making a list of those who could have made that argument over the past 10 to 20 years, yet still had their pictures on the front pages of papers across the state?

The client went on to write, “I am deeply concerned that a public spectacle will be made of the allegations as they pertain to me.”

Apparently, Wright’s client list was so long that the superintendent of schools of RSU 21 sent a letter to teachers asking them to be diligent for signs of bullying and signs of emotional turmoil in schoolchildren once the list was released.

It was a wise and proactive decision because there most certainly will be turmoil and unfortunately the children of those men are going to suffer.

Some news agencies are having discussions about whether to publish the names at all, whether to publish only the names of the public figures or whether to publish all of them.

Unfortunately, when people behave badly, commit crimes and get caught, their names often end up publicized. It may be a mere note in a police beat column or an inch-high headline with pictures on Page One.

And in nearly every case there are family members, often children, who suffer for it.

In all my years spent in a newsroom and of all of the criminal cases I reported on — some that involved well-known and prominent people behaving badly — I never once heard anyone argue against running the story of someone’s criminal citation or arrest for fear the defendant’s family would be embarrassed.

I understand this whole case is smarmy — or perhaps since it occurred in a quaint seaside Maine village, we should call it distasteful.

But I’ve covered a couple of prostitution stings in my day and never heard one person complain when the prostitutes’ mug shots were lined up across the front page of the paper. I never heard one person suggest we should not have done so because the women’s mothers and children would have to live with the public ridicule.

Of course, they weren’t that prominent.

It’s fine and even responsible to have ongoing conversations about what should and shouldn’t be printed or aired. It’s appropriate and responsible for the news media to have conversations about ethics and the public’s right to know.

But to argue that in this one case, these particular men being charged with a highly publicized crime should not have their names printed or aired because it might wound a town is wrong.

If that’s the case, then the media most certainly shouldn’t have broadcast the prostitution charges levied against Ms. Wright, either. She has a child, too.

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