ALFRED, Maine — Former Kennebunk High School hockey coach Donald Hill has been acquitted on a charge of engaging the services of prostitute Alexis Wright.
Justice Roland Cole ruled shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday that because of a lack of evidence Hill’s trial would not continue. The decision came after Cole decided against allowing the state to enter into evidence the business ledger and key that Wright used to record data from her prostitution business.
Hill, 53, of Old Orchard Beach has said he thought he was in a relationship with Wright. In court on Monday, his attorney told the jury they would not see images or video or hear audio recordings or hear from witnesses that Hill paid Wright for sex. Hill, who pleaded not guilty, would have faced a $1,000 fine if he had been convicted.
On Monday, Wright, 30, of Wells and Wright’s business partner, Mark Strong, 57, of Thomaston were called to the stand. Wright identified Hill in the courtroom Monday, but faced no additional questions from prosecutors or Hill’s attorney Gary Prolman.
Hill was the first of Wright’s alleged clients to take his case to a jury. The trial, which began Monday, heated up Tuesday with attorneys disagreeing over evidence and with one alleging the investigating police officer may have tampered with materials.
“This is the very reason why we have chain of custody. So I don’t wonder where this stuff was, so I don’t wonder if she went home and erased stuff,” said Prolman of Kennebunk Police Officer Audra Presby, who appeared on the stand Tuesday.
Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan called the claims “outrageous.”
Prolman argued there was not a complete chain of custody for computer items seized from Wright’s High Street office on Feb. 14, 2012. Among the items obtained from the computer materials seized is a ledger prosecutors say Wright maintained that contains client information and services provided.
Presby testified that she was able to match the dates and times of services rendered according to the ledger with dates and times of Skype screenshots obtained from Strong’s computer. Prolman said the ledger and images cannot prove what services his client received or that he paid for them.
“Ms. Wright could be an accountant she’s so particular about the records and that’s what this case is about,” McGettigan said. “There are 59 people who have pled guilty for specific dates mentioned in this ledger it’s so accurate.”
With the two sides at an impasse, Cole ordered a recess before returning with his ruling.
Jurors were not present for the dispute.
Strong often answered “I do not recall” on Monday when asked questions by prosecutors about watching Wright have sex with alleged clients through Skype, screenshot images captured through Skype and found by investigators on his computer, and ledgers seeming to detail client information and acts performed that investigators found emailed between him and Wright.
Strong said he helped Wright set up the Excel spreadsheet, or the ledger as prosecutors referred to it, and had no other involvement in the document other than making changes for Wright when she asked. He could not recall what those changes were or why Wright asked him to make the changes.
“I do not recall watching her have sexual relations. I do recall watching her on Skype,” Strong said in response to questions from Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon. “I had two computers on my desk, one I would do my work on and one I used possibly for Skype. You could press a button on Skype to have it routinely take pictures.”
In cross-examination by Prolman, Strong testified that he had no relationship with Hill, never saw Wright or Hill together, has not seen evidence of Hill paying Wright for sex, and didn’t take money from Hill himself.
Detective Fred Williams of the Saco Police Department also testified, telling prosecutors that he found the same ledger shown to Strong on Monday on Strong’s computer in July.
Williams also said he recognized Hill as the same man identified in Skype screenshots obtained from Strong’s computer engaging in sexual activity with Wright.
Wright is serving a 10-month sentence in York County Jail after pleading guilty to 20 counts related to prostitution and tax-related offenses for running a prostitution operation out of her Kennebunk Zumba studio for more than a year and a half. Strong was found guilty of charges relating to promoting prostitution.
Of the 68 people charged with paying Wright for sex, more than 58 have pleaded guilty or no contest.
Hill resigned as the Kennebunk High School hockey coach after 19 years in October 2012, with word coming from the district just hours after his arrest was announced in a press release from the Kennebunk Police Department.