KENNEBUNK, Maine — Kennebunk police on Friday are expected to release the names of more men charged with paying for sex in an ever-expanding prostitution case that has captured the attention of the global media.
Thus far, 62 men have been charged with engaging a prostitute in the case, with seven having already pleaded guilty or no contest. Two guilty pleas and one no contest plea were entered in person by alleged clients in the case Wednesday in Biddeford District Court, while four guilty pleas were entered in writing in previous weeks.
Another 19 men charged as clients in the case have entered not guilty pleas in writing through their attorneys, avoiding in-person court appearances.
Investigators allege that 29-year-old Alexis Wright of Wells ran a prostitution business out of her Kennebunk fitness studio alongside businessman Mark Strong, 57, of Thomaston. Police have said Wright kept meticulous records of the operation, including a list of nearly 150 names of clients, which in southern Maine has become popularly referred to as “The List.”
That list has not been made public, but Strong’s attorney, Daniel Lilley, suggested early in the case that it contained the names of several high profile individuals. Alleged johns are only being named publicly as they are officially charged with engaging a prostitute, a rolling process that has taken place over nearly two months thus far and is on pace to continue into early 2013.
Thus far, the list of men previously charged includes former South Portland Mayor James Soule, former Kennebunk High School hockey coach Donald Hill, local lawyer Jens Bergens, former Portland Planning Board Chairman Joe Lewis and former Church of the Nazarene Pastor James Andrew Ferreira.
Hill, Soule and Bergens have entered pleas of not guilty, while Lewis and Ferreira have yet to reach their scheduled arraignment dates.
Kennebunk police Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee has said his detectives are combing through massive amounts of evidence collected in the case, and are charging men as clients of the alleged operation as they gather enough incriminating evidence to do so. The names of those charged over each two-week span are then released to the public through the department’s regular biweekly arrest blotter, which also includes the names of people charged with unrelated crimes over the same period.
Both Wright and Strong have pleaded not guilty to a slate of crimes tied to the case.
Prosecutors from the York County District Attorney’s office are urging Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills to rejoin the cases against Strong and Wright after the judge previously agreed to requests by both suspects to separate the two.
Mills gave prosecutors until midday Thursday to enter evidence supporting their motion to rejoin the cases, saying in her order that the evidence in question would remain under seal — blocked from public view — until further notice. Mills also gave the defense attorneys until 10 a.m. Monday to file any opposition to the state’s evidence or request another conference on the topic.
In the parallel cases against accused johns in the case, another group of at least 15 alleged clients are due for arraignments — at which they will be asked to enter pleas of guilty, not guilty or no contest — on Dec. 19.