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In naming alleged sex clients, Maine police are only being fair

As police begin releasing the names of more than 100 men accused of paying a Zumba instructor for sex in Kennebunk, Maine, an important principle is playing out in this small town.

It’s called fairness.

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Alexis Wright, a 29-year-old instructor in the dance-style exercise known as Zumba, is charged with 106 counts of prostitution, invasion of privacy, and other charges. Her business partner, Mark Strong, also faces 59 misdemeanor charges. Both pleaded not guilty.

No one worries about shaming Wright and Strong or harming their reputations. Yet those were the arguments made by Wright’s alleged clients, as they desperately tried to convince a Maine court to keep their identities secret. A lawyer for two of the men said that naming them publicly would ruin their lives. To its credit, however, a Maine court denied a motion seeking to block disclosure of the names. This week, police issued summonses to a first batch of men who are accused of engaging in prostitution with Wright.

There’s an undeniably salacious element to the push in Kennebunk to name names. But there’s also the serious issue of equal justice and the importance of not allowing people with money or power to escape it when they break the law.

This isn’t France, where Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, is arguing that criminal charges relating to a prostitution ring in France should be dropped on grounds that authorities are unfairly trying to “criminalize lust.” As long as prostitution is illegal in this country, it isn’t fair to call out the alleged prostitutes while protecting the alleged paying customer.

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer paid the price when he was identified as “Client 9” in a 2008 prostitution scandal that led to his resignation as governor. Yet in Massachusetts, power and money won out in a 2009 case involving a well-connected businessman who has never been identified.

The judge in the case protected the identity of the married businessman who solicited sex from a prostitute who then extorted him. In exchange for admitting the extortion scheme, the woman was freed from jail. She was publicly identified, but the judge said she could be jailed again if she revealed her client’s identity over the next three years.

In Maine, the old-boy network is not protecting the boys, young or old, rich or poor, over the Zumba instructor. While it’s an uncomfortable outcome for more than 100 men in a small community, it’s a fair one.

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