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Zumba prostitution case: naming accused johns gets complicated

October 17, 2012|By Michael Muskal

A small town in Maine has been wrestling with a prostitution scandal involving an zumba fitness dance instructor--but it is the naming of the accused johns that has created a mess.  

The first list of 21 names of men accused of being involved in the scandal reportedly includes names that match several notable men around town. All are charged with the class E crime of engaging a prostitute.

The names were released this week after a series of court battles. Police in Kennebunk plan to release the remaining names, perhaps more than 150,  every other week as the people are issued summonses.

The problems over the names have been brewing since police arrested Alexis Wright, 29, on Oct. 9. The zumba instructor ran a studio in Kennebunk and had an office nearby. She pleaded not guilty to 106 counts of prostitution and related charges in an enterprise that grossed $150,000 in 18 months, police said. Officials said she secretly videotaped her clients.

Many in the town of about 10,000 wondered about the identities of the men. Some of the men went to court to keep their name out of the public eye.

Originally, Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren ruled that only the names of those charged should be released. Because of the videotapes, the men were potentially victims of privacy invasion as well as accused solicitors of sex. Because they could be victims, Warren walked a fine line in his ruling, saying the names could be released. But he withheld key identifiers such as age and address.

But the limited identifications created problems as reporters telephoned and searched through the town, trying to find the right people, and not just those with similar names.

Consider, for instance, Paul Main of Alfred. His quiet Monday evening was  disturbed when his phone started ringing off the hook and half a dozen TV crews showed up on his porch.

Main, who was not a client of the fitness studio, shares his name with at least 20 others in Maine, including one of those charged. He has been trying to clear his name.

 “I don't have a problem with releasing names. I think it's a wonderful thing, but I'll be darned if it's right to do it in a shoddy manner,”  Main, a retired spokesman and head of the detective division for the York County Sheriff's Department, told the Associated Press.

After such complaints, the judge decided that the police could release the middle initial of the men as well.

But that also didn’t solve all of the issues. On Tuesday, Judge Warren ruled in favor of a request from the Portland Press Herald newspaper that wanted more identifiers such as ages and addresses added.

But there were still problems. That list gave the wrong address for one man, prompting police to issue a clarification, adding that the current residents "respectfully request media personnel refrain from contacting them or arriving at that residence."

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