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Two Plead Not Guilty in Maine Prostitution Case
10/09/2012   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

The two defendants accused of operating a prostitution business in Kennebunk pleaded not guilty in Cumberland County Superior Court today. Twenty-nine-year-old Alexis Wright of Wells and alleged business partner Mark Strong of Thomaston each faced multiple criminal counts. During the court proceeding, the judge also considered whether to make the list of their clients confidential. Patty Wight reports.

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Alexis Wright is facing more than 100 misdemeanor counts for promoting and engaging in prostitution. She also faces three felony accounts: one for tax evasion and two for theft by deception for wrongfully collecting income tax refunds and food assistance.

Mark Strong faces more than 50 misdemeanor charges for promoting prostitution and conspiracy. But Strong's attorney Dan Lilley has filed two motions to dismiss the case because he says state prosecutors have only provided him with a quarter of the evidence they have against his client.

Lilley says they're disorganized, and trying to get information from them is like a treasure hunt. "They've taken a case - a small case - they've blown it into a nightmare, but they're not prepared to go forward on it," he says.

Prosecutors said today they may have another piece of evidence against Mark Strong - possible child pornogrpahy. But Lilley balked at that suggestion when he met with reporters outside the courtroom. "There's no child pornography in this case," he said. "They told me that personally, they emailed that to me, and they put in a pleading in court."

Judge Nancy Mills hasn't ruled on whether to dismiss the case yet. She'll consider the motion again in a few weeks, after the prosecution and defense meet next week to share evidence.

Prosecutors have also asked Judge Mills to grant an order to keep private the list of Wright's 150 clients, some of whom could be prominent figures. They argued that allowing the list to be publicized before formal charges are brought could create confusion and hurt innocent people. But Judge Mills said there was no just cause to grant such an order.

"There was no showing that this case is any different from any other criminal case where people are charged with crimes," says Sigmund Schutz, an attorney who represents the Portland Press Herald and the York County Coast Star newspapers. He filed an objection to the proposed confidentiality order.

Schutz says the public has a right to know about what happens in the court. He says the list can be released at any time, from the defense attorneys or the state.

"The state can determine whether the release of the list would interfere with ongoing law enforcement proceedings or constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," Schutz says. "And that's probably a determination that the state should revisit in light of the fact that they're going to prosecute the individuals on the list."

Some communities are already bracing for the consequences of publishing the list. Andrew Dollof is the superintendent of Kennebunk schools. Last week, he sent a letter to staff directing them to reach out to students who could be bullied or harrassed.

"We're certainly anticipating that it could impact some students and their families in our district because they may be related to somebody who could be named," Dollof says.

It's unclear when the list will be released to the public. At the latest, it will happen when the case goes to trial. Judge Nancy Mills said the case will be expedited from this moment forward and **** will look to set a trial date in a few weeks.



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