August 1, 2013

Kennebunk Zumba sex scandal made into TV documentary

The TLC network show interviews many of the people involved in the infamous Zumba saga.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

For anyone who hasn't gotten enough of the Kennebunk prostitution saga, the TLC cable television network will air a one-hour documentary at 10 p.m. Tuesday: "Sex, Lies and Zumba."

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In this March 13, 2013 file photo, Alexis Wright leaves the Cumberland County Courthouse. The Kennebunk Zumba sex scandal, centering on Wright, has been made into a TV documentary. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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In this Friday, January 18, 2013, Mark Strong leaves Cumberland County Courthouse. For anyone who hasn't gotten enough of the Kennebunk prostitution saga, the TLC cable television network will air a one-hour documentary at 10 p.m. Tuesday: "Sex, Lies and Zumba."

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

TLC has posted a 30-second trailer of the documentary, made by a British production company called Raw, on its website.

"This small town thought Zumba was just a dance craze," the preview opens. "But some were getting more than just a workout."

The video then cuts to people talking about the scandal, including NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who was one of many national journalists to report the sordid story involving fitness instructor-turned-prostitute Alexis Wright.

Nick Angel, director of the TLC special, said he and a crew spent many hours in Maine from February to June of this year.

"I am happy with how it turned out," Angel said by phone from England. "It was such a complex story and was difficult to compress into one hour. But the people who spoke were all open and candid and welcoming."

The documentary will center on Wright, her business partner, Mark Strong Sr., and the dozens of clients who paid the young woman to engage in various sex acts.

The film will feature interviews with local people who were involved, including Audra Presby, the detective for the Kennebunk Police Department who first searched the now-infamous Zumba studio in February 2012, and Daniel Lilley, the Portland attorney who represented Strong.

"It was a long process. I probably did five or six sit-downs" with the producers, Lilley said.

Lilley, who has been a defense attorney for more than four decades and has defended some high-profile clients, said he has been approached to appear in such productions in the past.

He was featured in an episode of the news show "20/20" several years ago, in a segment about a client who assaulted her husband with a baseball bat.

Local journalists who covered the trials of Strong and Wright were also interviewed, including a Portland Press Herald reporter.

Also in "Sex, Lies and Zumba" will be interviews with some of the men who engaged in prostitution with Wright, although the teaser video suggests that the men's identities will be concealed.

Wright was not interviewed for the show, although her attorney, Sarah Churchill, was. Churchill said she doesn't know if she will be in the final product.

Angel said he would like to have had interviews with Strong, Wright or both.

"I think they have a story to tell, and probably will tell it at some point," he said.

The saga dominated local, and eventually national, media coverage for weeks.

In March, Wright avoided a trial by pleading guilty to promoting prostitution and engaging in prostitution. She was sentenced to serve 10 months in jail.

Wright, now 30, also was ordered to pay back $58,000 in restitution for receiving welfare benefits she was not eligible for, based on the income she earned as a prostitute.

Police and prosecutors have said that Wright had the names of more than 140 clients in her ledger and took in at least $150,000 from the business from July 2010 to February 2012.

Strong, 57, was convicted in March on multiple counts of promotion of prostitution. He was sentenced to 20 days in jail and ordered to pay a fine of $3,000.

To date, 68 clients have been charged. As of last week, 58 men had pleaded guilty to engaging a prostitute and paid fines ranging from $400 to $1,000, according to information released to the Press Herald by the York County District Attorney's Office in response to a Freedom of Access Act request.

Kennebunk police have said that as many as 40 more "johns" could still be charged.

Gary Prolman, who has represented several charged in the case, was interviewed for the TLC documentary but doesn't know if he will be in the show.

"They were among the few (journalists) who did an in-depth analysis of the case and looked at all the facts, not just the headlines," he said.

One of Prolman's clients, Donald Hill, a former Kennebunk High School hockey coach, will go on trial next month. It will be the first trial for one of Wright's alleged customers.

"We can't wait to have our day in court and finally have an opportunity for vindication," Prolman said.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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