Wednesday, December 11, 2013
BIDDEFORD -- A judge has rejected a motion to unseal two affidavits filed by police who sought search warrants in the investigation of an alleged prostitution operation in Kennebunk.
Weeks have gone by since former Alexis Wright Zumba instructor was indicted in the case, and while some of the affidavits for search warrant have been made public, those two, at least, remain sealed.
Judge Christine Foster's ruling in Biddeford District Court on Friday upheld her orders to seal those affidavits, and rejected a motion filed Nov. 6 by a lawyer for the Portland Press Herald to make them public.
It is unclear what police were looking for when they filed the two affidavits, or whether an inventory from either of the two searches has been returned to the court.
The only documents relating to the two search warrant affidavits are the granted motions to impound them.
The judge first ordered the records sealed on Sept. 13, for 60 days, then approved a motion by the state on Oct. 1 to extend the seal for 90 days. The impoundment orders are due to expire Dec. 13.
Wright has been charged with 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.
The case has grabbed international attention in part because she allegedly kept detailed records of more than 150 clients, including some prominent figures.
The news has roiled the town and surrounding communities as the Kennebunk Police Department has released the names of men charged in waves on its bi-weekly crime blotter.
Cliff Schechtman, executive editor of the Press Herald, said he is considering filing an appeal of the judge's ruling.
"Why should these documents be secret? Who or what is being protected?" Schechtman said. "Transparency is vital for the public's confidence in the legal system."
York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, the lead prosecutor in the cases against Wright, her alleged partner in the operation, Mark Strong Sr., and the men accused of engaging Wright for sex, declined to comment when asked about the sealed affidavits.
Wright's attorney, Sarah Churchill, said she doesn't know why the state wants those two affidavits sealed.
"It's a bit unusual," she said. "Typically, after charges are brought, those affidavits are unsealed."
Churchill said the state has until Monday to supply her with the discovery evidence in the case against Wright. She said she has already received thousands of pages of evidence.
After she receives all of the evidence, she will have until March 26 to file motions challenging any of it.