Oh, me. Oh, my. Heads are spinning in Kennebunk, Maine. Townspeople are sniggering about just who is on the list of clients snagged when police arrested Wells resident Alexis Wright and charged her with prostitution, tax evasion and invasion of privacy. It turns out the 29-year-old fitness instructor is believed to have video-recorded some intimate moments. I am betting that there is a run on the services of cardiologists and divorce lawyers in the surrounding area; plenty of Johns are preparing for questions about just what muscles they were exercising at Ms. Wright’s studio.
Just why we criminalize prostitution in this country is a mystery to me. I could not care less about whether Ms. Wright is using her exercise studio as the a libidinal fantasy island. If consenting adults are desperate enough to pay for sex, then let them, I say. It is not as though we don’t use sexuality as an advertising tool for products ranging toothpaste to cars. What’s the harm in a little honesty?
Local police were set to release the list of Johns when a lawyer believed to represent two of the libidinal warriors filed an emergency writ to block publication. Maine’s Supreme Court is expected to rule as early as next week on whether to keep secret the list of names.
There is little basis in law for keeping the names confidential. It is against the law in Maine, as it is in most places in the United States, to patronize a prostitute. Local police have begun to issue summons to Ms. Wright’s clients charging them with engaging a woman of the night.
Police officers often evoke a law enforcement privilege against disclosure of information regarding an ongoing police investigation. In such cases, a court may keep from public view any information that might shed light on the activities of police prior to completion of an investigation. Typically, it is the police who evoke this privilege, not interested third parties who may or may not face arrest.
What a contrast to the case of Anna Gristina, a client of mine, in Manhattan. The District Attorney’s office in the Big Apple went on the record accusing her of running a multi-million brothel for many years. Yet the sole count for which she was arrested resulted from a sting operation in which an undercover police officer paid for what amounted to a live peep show. No "customers" were ever identified in a public record; indeed, in the course of the prosecution, the People never disclosed the name of anyone every believed to cavort for pay. Neither did evidence of the millions my client was alleged to have made ever surface. It was a sexless prostitution prosecution, this in the city that never sleeps.
I’ll never know why Manhattan prosecutors made Gristina out to be the Queen of Tarts and then failed to produce evidence that she did more than take a cop’s marked money for a tryst. My hunch they wanted her to name names. She didn’t.
They do things differently in Maine, I suspect: Both the honey pot and the beys get busted.
Tongues are wagging up and down the East Cost tonight about who is on the Kennebunk list. We received a call today from no less an outfit that the ABC Evening News about the case. Rumor has it police officers, politicians, lawyers and other prominent men were visiting Ms. Wright’s fitness studio to exercise muscles best flexed in private and at home. Why are we so crazy about sex?
"We believe very strongly that their names ought not to be released. The mere releasing of their names will have devastating consequences in a case ... the government ... will have great difficulty proving," the lawyer for the suspect Johns, Stephen Schwartz claims.
Schwartz has a point. Ms. Wright, and the suspect Johns, are all presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty. The names of those alleging to be victims of sex crimes typically remain confidential to protect them from the scandal associated with victimization. What justification is there for broadcasting the names of those presumed innocent? None. It is mere titillation for the sake of titillation, and it makes a mockery of the presumption of innocence.
I’m rooting for Ms. Wright. All Hell’s going to break lose in Kennebunk, and soon.