KENNEBUNK, Maine (AP) — A state judge declined to block the release of names of men accused of giving business to a fitness instructor charged with running a prostitution operation out of her Zumba fitness studio, and police in this seaside town prepared Friday to reveal the first batch of identities.
Alexis Wright, a 29-year-old fitness instructor from Wells, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts of prostitution, invasion of privacy, tax evasion and other charges for allegedly accepting money for sex and secretly videotaping her encounters. Her business partner, Mark Strong Sr., a 57-year-old insurance agent and private investigator from Thomaston, has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges for his alleged role.
Searches of Wright's studio and office turned up video recordings of sexual acts, billing information and meticulous records about clients, according to court documents.
Based on that information, Kennebunk police have been begun issuing summonses to Wright's johns on misdemeanor charges of engaging a prostitute. The first names were to be released Friday in police activity reports that are made public every other week, said Lt. Anthony Burpee.
But a lawyer for two of the men believed to be on the list asked a judge on Thursday to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the release of the names.
District Judge Andre Janelle quickly rejected the motion for a restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the release of names. The three-page order was signed by the judge Thursday night and filed Friday in Biddeford District Court.
The existence of such a list has fueled speculation about who is on it. Residents have said they've heard it could include lawyers, law enforcement officers and some well-known names.
Strong's attorney, Dan Lilley, has said he has a list of or more than 150 people who were alleged customers, but that he wouldn't release the names unless they're called as witnesses if the case goes to trial.
Allison Ackley, who participated in Wright's Zumba class, said she had no idea that Wright was allegedly leading a double life.
"She was very professional. She was an amazing dancer and she held a good class so I liked going. I thought she was a little, not risque but a little flirtatious, with a couple of the male participants in the class. But it's Zumba. You're there to have fun. I didn't think anything of it."
The case has rocked this small town, which is well-known for its ocean beaches, old sea captains' mansions and the neighboring town of Kennebunkport, home to the Bush family's Walker's Point summer compound.
"It'll be interesting to see who's on that list because we're hearing that there are selectmen, there are policemen, that there are firemen — people that we're going to know in town," said local resident Elaine Nicholson. "So everyone is, like, waiting with bated breath."
Sharp reported from Portland.