A Maine judge Monday ordered the release of the names of more than 100 men charged with hiring a prostitute but issued a temporary restraining order against the disclosure of some of the men’s addresses, causing confusion and leaving journalists unable to verify the identities of the defendants.
Sigmund Schutz, lawyer for the Portland Press Herald, filed today a motion asking the court to reconsider its ruling and release the men's addresses because disclosure of the names without additional identifying information could lead to innocent men being falsely named as defendants.
The Press Herald, along with other Maine newspapers, has opted to not name the defendants because they could not be verified without additional information.
“Some of the names that have been released are very common, which makes it impossible to verify the identity of some of the people on the list,” Schutz said. “We’ve argued that the addresses are public record, and we’re waiting for the court to schedule a hearing.”
Maine Superior Court Judge Thomas D. Warren ordered the release of the names and the withholding of the addresses after a private phone conference with the lawyers representing some of the defendants and the York County District Attorney. Kennebunk police released 21 of the names Monday, and the rest of the names will be released in bi-weekly press releases the Kennebunk Police Department will issue, according to a department press release.
The court determined that the defendants' request to withhold their identities did not meet the standard for a preliminary injunction.
“The principle that court proceedings are public is essential to public confidence,” Warren said in the order. “If persons charged with crimes could withhold their identities, the public would not be able to monitor proceedings to observe whether justice has been done and to observe whether certain defendants may have received favored treatment.”
Some of the accused men were allegedly videotaped during sex acts and could be considered victims of invasion of privacy, according to Warren's order. Under state law, victims' addresses should not be released, he ruled.
The defendants were alleged clients of Alexis Wright, a Kennebunk Zumba instructor who is charged with turning her dance studio into a brothel, prostituting herself and video recording many of the encounters. Wright also kept a meticulous book of client records, where the defendants are listed. Businessman Mark Strong Sr. allegedly worked with Wright and is charged with violation of privacy, promotion of prostitution and conspiracy to commit the crimes with Wright.
Schutz has also filed an objection on behalf of the Press Herald and York County Coast Star against an order filed by Maine Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein that would limit the disclosure of information obtained by the defense during discovery and the ability of the lawyers to talk to the media about the cases against Wright and Strong. A decision on whether the protective order will be granted has not been made.