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Attorney Tim Zerillo Featured in Vanity Fair Article

From Vanity Fair, by Bethany McLean
(these are exerpts from a longer article)

Town of Whispers
Many in the picturesque Maine town of Kennebunk—a short trip from the Bush-family compound—knew that the sweet, friendly Zumba teacher was leading a double life. But then police charged that Alexis Wright’s prostitution sideline included sharing videotapes of her client sessions with her married lover, a part-time P.I. As Kennebunk speculates feverishly and officials release the names of more than 60 suspected clients involved, Bethany McLean gauges the damage done.
One bottle of Astroglide. Four bottles of baby oil. One Nikon 35-mm. camera, one Sony camcorder, one Samsung camcorder, one Sony Handycam, one Pentax camera, one JVC camcorder, a black Fuji camera, two Canon Rebel cameras. Lots of laptops, DVDs, external hard drives, and condoms. A “Domination Fetish” sheet. A white envelope stuffed with $1,000 in cash. Surveillance glasses and black night-vision glasses. Eight Express Mail labels addressed to Strong Investigations. A notebook and a black leather appointment book, both filled with names. Excel spreadsheets containing e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Ledgers of sexual acts, with a monetary value given to each one, and hours of video recordings of many of them. A CD labeled “Yeah.”
These are just some of the items that were taken from the homes, offices, and cars of 30-year-old Alexis Wright, who made part of her living teaching a popular Latin-inspired fitness class called Zumba, and 57-year-old Mark Strong Sr., an insurance salesman. They’re the two figures at the center of a prostitution scandal that has captured the attention of the world. In court documents, the police allege not only that Wright was a prostitute but that she shared her professional encounters with Strong, either by sending him digital tapes of them or live video via Skype. Wright was sexually involved with Strong, who was also a licensed private investigator. Allegedly, she asked him to run her clients’ license‑plate numbers through the state motor-vehicle database, presumably to get their real identities. In the affidavit for Strong’s arrest warrant, the police say that “the numerous sex acts were video recorded unbeknownst to the males she was having sex with.”

Both Wright and Strong, who were indicted in October on a combined 165 charges consisting mainly of engaging in prostitution (her), promotion of prostitution (both), violation of privacy (both), and in her case benefits and tax fraud, have pleaded not guilty. In a press release, Strong called the charges “untrue,” and said, “I have made some bad choices but have broken no laws.” (Neither Wright nor Strong would be interviewed for this article.)

Wright’s choice of a locale in which to conduct her affairs was either inspired or twisted or both, depending on your point of view: the lovely, quaint seaside town of Kennebunk, Maine, population 10,798, home of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, the heart of the land originally settled by the Puritans, just a hop, skip, and jump from Kennebunkport, where the Bush family has its Walker’s Point summer compound.

But what really made the story of the “Zumba Madam” go viral was Wright’s meticulous recordkeeping. Thanks to that, prosecutors can do something they often can’t in this type of case: figure out who the alleged johns were and charge them with crimes, too. The record of who did what has become known simply as “The List”—at one point, it was rumored to include 174 names—and the tantalizing prospect of finding out who is on it caused a feeding frenzy among the national media, from the Today show to Good Morning America to CNN. “The town was literally under siege,” says Laura Dolce, the editor of the local paper, the York County Coast Star. “You couldn’t walk down Main Street without being hounded by media. You couldn’t go into a coffee shop without reporters’ trying to overhear what people were talking about.” Who might be on the list? A member of the Bush family? Someone from the Secret Service? General Petraeus? Dolce says that she was asked about all three. The answers were no, no, and no. But, really, it could have been—and could still be—anyone.
In the area around Kennebunk, it was an open secret long before the scandal broke that Alexis Wright led a double life. “I knew about this story,” one lawyer who is involved tells me. “A client called me. He said, ‘Look, there’s a woman in town who’s a Zumba instructor. She’s a prostitute on the side. I’ve seen her and I’m worried.’ ”
“Why [are you worried]?” the lawyer says he asked.

“Because I’ve seen this blog,” the client responded.

The blog in question, Alexiswrightzumbateacherpornstar, began with an anonymous entry on August 30, 2010:

If anyone knows Alexis Wright from Kennebunk Maine you probably think she’s a sweet, friendly Zumba teacher . . . the funny thing is she’s not! she’s living a double life & is a porn star!!!!! she may be a prostitute for all I know ... all you have to do is google her full name (which is pretty ridiculous that she goes by that) & you’ll see her doing all kinds of nasty sexual acts with married old men, herself & other females.
But the indictments were just a prologue to the real show, which is the revelation of who is on The List. That part has not been much fun for anyone around Kennebunk, be they guilty or innocent, participant or bystander. It is standard practice for the Kennebunk Police Department to release to the media every two weeks the names of those charged with crimes. As Lieutenant Burpee explained to reporters, the department wanted to make sure it was conducting “business as normal” by treating Wright’s alleged clients the same way it treated those accused of other crimes. But the small department couldn’t process all the cases at once, so instead of releasing all the names, they planned to release them in batches—just 21 in the first group, on Friday, October 12. “If you asked the powers that be, you would be told that they’re doing it so it doesn’t bog down the court system,” says Timothy Zerillo, who is a lawyer for three of the men charged. “But the effect was to take the first 21 and shine a spotlight on them.”
Even for those on The List, there are some who argue that their punishment has gone far beyond what the law provides for. The maximum fine is $1,000 but defense lawyers say that $400 to $500 is more likely. “The fine is on a continuum somewhere between a drunk-driving incident and a speeding ticket,” says Zerillo.

As of mid-December, more than 60 men had been charged, 10 of whom pleaded guilty. Only a handful are actually from Kennebunk, and they aren’t local celebrities: according to the Portland Press Herald, roughly half are in the home-building business. There have also been an official from the South Portland Church of the Nazarene, several small-business owners, and a former South Portland mayor. And there may be some stereotypical, yet satisfying, hypocrisy: one of the men billed his house-building business as “A Christian Family Owned Company.” The man was also a donor to Protect Marriage Maine, an anti-gay-marriage group.

But there’s also been “a whole lot of sad,” as Zerillo puts it. One alleged client resigned from his longtime job as Kennebunk High School’s head hockey coach so the school wouldn’t have to deal with the controversy.

By late November, Kennebunk and neighboring Kennebunkport, which were preparing for their annual tree-lighting ceremonies, seemed almost back to normal. Residents wish that were true. When I joked with an employee at Toppings pizzeria that he’d miss the press once we were gone, he said, without a hint of a smile, “I hope I never see another reporter ever again.”

But the story isn’t going away anytime soon, thanks to what Zerillo calls “the slow water-torture drip of names.” It’ll be sometime in 2013 before the Kennebunk police have released the entire list. In addition, Strong is scheduled to go to trial in January.  As for Wright’s alleged clients, they’ll probably never be able to rest easy.

 For more on Tim Zerillo and Zerillo Law, LLC, click here.

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