November 21, 2012

Judge to keep Kennebunk prostitution affidavits sealed

The documents, used to request search warrants, are usually made public after the indictments, but haven't been in this case.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — A judge has rejected a motion to unseal two affidavits filed by police who sought search warrants in the investigation of Alexis Wright's alleged prostitution operation in Kennebunk.

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Alexis Wright

AP

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Mark Strong Sr.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Weeks have gone by since the former Zumba instructor was indicted in the case, and although some of the affidavits for search warrants have been made public, those two, at least, remain sealed.

Judge Christine Foster's ruling Friday in Biddeford District Court 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 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 in December.

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 biweekly 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, 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.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@mainetoday.com

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