ALFRED, Maine — The now-famous Kennebunk prostitute was tricked by Thomaston insurance broker Mark Strong Sr. into believing she was investigating “sexual deviants” for the state, the attorney representing Alexis Wright told the court in a pre-sentencing memorandum.
Wright, who is scheduled to be sentenced Friday morning in York County Superior Court in Alfred, was also traumatized as a child witnessing the sexual abuse of her mother by her father — and then was sexually abused by the man herself “for many of her formative years,” according to defense attorney Sarah Churchill’s memo.
Strong was convicted by a jury in March on 13 promotion of prostitution-related counts and ultimately served 15 days of a 20-day sentence. One week after Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills sentenced Strong for his role in the operation, Wright agreed to a plea agreement in which prosecutors would recommend a 10-month jail term and drop 86 of the 106 counts against her in exchange for a guilty plea on 20 misdemeanor counts, including charges of prostitution, theft by deception and state tax evasion.
Wright, who worked as a fitness instructor in the seaside town by day, would not have taken part in the prostitution if not for the manipulation of Strong, her attorney told the court.
Churchill wrote that Wright met Strong while working as an exotic dancer in southern Maine to help pay her way through University of Southern Maine.
“She meets an older man and over a period of years is taken in by him first as a model, then as part of his private investigation firm and is told a story, which she all too readily believes, about how she is an operative working for the state to investigate all manner of sexual deviants,” the attorney wrote.
“At first this seems too farfetched for anyone to believe,” Churchill continued, in part. “Nevertheless text messages between Ms. Wright and Mark Strong Sr. bear it out.”
The defense attorney referred to several text message exchanges in which Strong referred to “them” — presumably meaning state investigators — wanting documents, making better videos of the sex acts and needing secrecy for their research.
Churchill wrote that Wright has been in counseling for six months “to begin dealing with the fallout from this matter. Not only does she have to deal with processing her childhood trauma and the trauma from this matter, but because some of the videos in this case were put on the internet, she also has to face the fact that there are people out there viewing and profiting from this matter.”
Churchill wrote that after the conclusion of Wright’s criminal case, the attorney will direct her attention toward “shutting down these sites and analyzing whether there were actually any profits made that can be recouped.”
Prosecutors from the York County district attorney’s office and state attorney general’s office described in their pre-sentencing memorandum the tax evasion and related theft by deception offenses as being particularly “serious.”
“Stealing from these limited resources is very serious,” York County Assistant District Attorney Justina McGettigan wrote. “Public benefits are for those in need, not individuals flush with cash from an illicit business.”
In late winter a jury found Strong guilty of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution, ending a drawn-out trial in which jury selection began as far back as late January.
Prosecutors said that evidence introduced at the Strong trial — including a 45-minute stretch of video in which Wright is shown having sex with a man in her office, discussing her rates for the service and then accepting cash payment — would likely be introduced again if Wright had gone to trial.
Other evidence used against Strong that could have been damning included detailed client ledgers sent by Wright to Strong by email listing appointment times, names, sex services rendered and prices charged.
The Kennebunk prostitution case became a media sensation last year after police claimed to have discovered a client list including as many as 150 names, fueling intense public speculation over whether any prominent locals were on what would become known far and wide as “The List.”
Nearly 70 people have been charged with paying for sex in the case, including a former South Portland mayor and Portland planning board chairman. Kennebunk police announced last month that by the end of the summer, they would decide whether to move forward with charges against another 40 alleged johns, a move that could extend the court life of the sprawling prostitution case into 2014.