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Release of Names in Maine Prostitution Case Temporarily Blocked
10/12/2012   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

Last-minute legal efforts to protect the identities of accused clients of an alleged prostitution business in Kennebunk have been successful - at least for now. The request for a restraining order to block the release of the names was turned down by a District Court judge this morning. But now the Maine Supreme Judicial Court is considering an appeal of that decision. Patty Wight reports.

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Release of Names in Maine Prostitution Case Tempor Listen

When a person is formally charged with a crime, that information becomes public record. Whether it's a traffic violation, theft, OUI, or engaging in prostitution. It's the law - part of the Freedom of Access Act.

The Kennebunk Police Department provides that public record in bi-weekly press releases, and was expected to release the first batch of names of those charged in connection with the prostitution case today. But now that's on hold after Portland lawyer Stephen Schwartz, who represents two of the alleged clients of a Kennebunk prostitution business, filed a restraining order to prevent those names from being released.

Schwartz says the charges alone have the capacity to prejudice the jury pool. "Once the horse has been let out of the barn on the issue of who's being charged, the community will set its own standard," he says. "And, you know, people are subject to being branded with a scarlet letter."

He says there are also serious problems with the government's case. "Because - mainly because - the person who is alleged to have made video, the person who is alleged to have been part of the transaction, is unavailable to testify to authenticate documents because she has a 5th Amendment right to remain silent."

Schwartz says his clients are also victims - of invasion of privacy - a crime the alleged owner of the prostitution business, Alexis Wright, has already been charged with. All of these are valid reasons, Schwartz says, for the court to approve his motion for a restraining order.

But that request was rejected in District Court. Judge Andre Janelle said in a written response that a right to a fair trial does not mean the courts should shield the identitity of those charged with a crime. Schwartz filed an appeal and expects a decision next week.

He says that will likely be the last word on the issue. "I think we will have exhausted all of our remedies at that point."

The town of Kennebunk is left with the potential fallout from all of this. Many residents declined to speak on tape about whether they think the client names should be withheld from public record. Some said they didn't want any association with the case.

But Melissa Condon, who owns the Razor's Edge Salon, feels strongly enough to say she thinks the potential harm outweighs any good reason for allowing the names into public record.

"I still think there should be an exception. It's just - it's really gonna cause - there's literally more than 100 names on the list," she says. "I'm guessing it's a huge list, so I really think it's a personal thing and that it should be kept secret."

Down the road at Perfecto's Caffe, Kennebunk resident Teresa Andreoli says the issue initially polarized a local Facebook moms group with over 500 members. "It's all about the kids," she says. "In our group, it's all about which kid is going to get bullied if one of his parent's names is on the list."

While Andreoli says she feels compassion for families affected if the names become public, she ultimately she thinks it should be part of the public record. She says it's a slippery slope to make exceptions. Her friend Amy Lemieux of Arundel, also a mother, worries about how this case will affect the town as whole.

"It would be sad if this is the only thing that Kennebunk becomes known for, is what I think is the sad part about it," she says.

"But I don't think that's going to happen," Andreoli says. "I definitely think that - there's that dumb song, 'I'm Not That Guy.' We're not that town. We're not that town that gets lost in this. We'll be good to each other. I have a good feeling."

Andreoli says the moms group now has a pact to support each other if and when those names become public.


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