2012-10-26 / Community

Reaction varies over the slow release of ‘The List’

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Some Kennebunk residents have begun to grow weary of the attention focused on their small town as the gradual release of court summonses continues for those suspected of visiting an alleged prostitute.

But others say their interest in the “list” remains, as the next scheduled release of names, set for Friday, Oct. 26, approaches.

“There’s two trains of thought, and sometimes they’re coming from the same person,” said Dan Acheson, a resident who moved to Kennebunk in September, weeks before grand jury indictments were handed down to Alexis Wright and Mark Strong, setting off a stir among Kennebunk residents and bringing national news trucks to Main Street.

“All the locals want to know about the list: who is on it, what the commotion’s about. Then in a different vein, it’s like, this happens all the time in different cities and it’s not that big a deal,” Acheson said.

Kennebunk resident Nina Camire said she will continue to follow the release of names from the police department, but plans to ignore the surrounding coverage of the story. Camire said she would prefer that the entire list of Wright’s alleged clients be released at once.

“You’re on the list, it’s done and over with and two weeks later we aren’t waiting for the next list, we’re moving on to the next big story,” Camire said.

“Plus, all the people that are living in dread of it coming out, their dread would be over. Spreading out bad news, does that make it any better?”

Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee of the Kennebunk Police Department said police, in conjunction with the York County District Attorney’s Office, decided to release the names in the regular police department media releases for two primary reasons.

First, it allowed investigators from Kennebunk and Maine State Police to gather the proper amount of evidence for each alleged client. That process, Bean Burpee said, takes time.

“It’s not like we have a stack of 150 summonses here to issue. To date, investigators have only been able to charge 21 people,” Bean Burpee said.

Second, Bean Burpee said the department wants to make sure it is conducting “business as normal” by putting the crimes of the suspected clients on equal footing with the other crimes for which the department issues summonses.

But two local defense attorneys representing defendants involved in the case take issue with the way the police department has handled the investigation.

Attorney Gary Prolman represents Don Hill, who resigned from his position as the Kennebunk High School hockey coach after his name was included on the initial list of Wright’s suspected clients.

Prolman had filed a motion in Maine District Court in Biddeford to protect the identities of alleged clients in the case because they are victims of a crime. Wright and Strong each face charges of violation of privacy for allegedly secretly taping sexual encounters in the Zumba dance studio.

Prolman said he had a verbal agreement with the police department to withhold the release of names until his motions were heard, but that agreement was not upheld. Meanwhile, the gradual release of names reveals what he called “ulterior motives” on the part of the department. He clarified that York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan has been helpful and transparent through the legal process, but he took issue with the way police have handled the case.

“It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen,” Prolman said. “Normally, in any case I’ve dealt with in 33 years, the state will get their whole case together and then they’ll make their charges. They don’t do it piecemeal.”

Strong is facing 59 total charges, including promoting prostitution and violation of privacy. He released a statement to the media Friday, Oct. 19 through his attorney, Daniel G. Lilley. Strong argued he broke no laws, and the case was brought against him by the Kennebunk Police Department “as retaliation against me for my investigation of their department.”

Strong is a licensed private investigator who claims he was working on behalf of Wright to look into claims she made that the department was “harassing her.”

Kennebunk Police responded with their own media release later on Friday to counter Strong’s argument. Police said they never harassed Wright, and Strong’s claims were “inaccurate in many instances that portray both the Department and several of its sworn officers in a false light that must be corrected.”

“The department’s efforts here were all the result of a professional police investigation, based on probable cause, and pursued with the approval of the District Attorney’s office,” police said.

The back and forth has kept the story in the headlines since the initial release of names Monday, Oct. 15, but residents say the life of the story may not last much longer.

Arundel resident Paul Doherty said too much has already been made of a small legal matter. He would have preferred no names were ever released in the first place.

“I think catching up all these other people, I guess they did wrong, but where does it stop being justice and start being just over the top?” asked Doherty.

Bean Burpee also hopes the attention on the case will wane as the investigations continue.

“I think people are at the point now where people are tired of it,” Bean Burpee said.

There is no guarantee about the number of names that will be provided in each release, he added. If, for example, investigators only charge two suspects, Bean Burpee believes residents will likely stop “setting their calendars.”

Just two of the 21 initial names released were Kennebunk residents, and Acheson said people in town have realized they may not know as many “list” members as they originally thought, and the story has already begun to “lose its appeal.”

“People are kind of sick of the national attention. They want their small town back,” Acheson said.

Arundel resident Bill Butterfield agreed. Butterfield is a member of the local Knights of Columbus in Kennebunk, and said his work with the organization has shown people to be giving and charitable in the town.

“It’s not fair,” Butterfield said, “because this town is a heck of a lot better than Zumba.”

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