The dance instructor who used herZumba fitness studio as a front for prostitution faces jail time after pleading guilty in a case that captivated a quiet seaside town known for its beaches and picturesque homes.
The plea agreement, which calls for a 10-month sentence, sparesAlexis Wright from the prospect of a high-profile trial featuring sex videos, exhibitionism and pornography. She’s scheduled to be sentenced on May 31.
Wright quietly answered “guilty” 20 times on Friday when the judge read the counts, which include engaging in prostitution, promotion of prostitution, conspiracy, tax evasion and theft by deception.
“We’re very satisfied with it. It’s an appropriate outcome, given the gravity of her actions,” Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell said after the brief court hearing.
The 30-year-old Wright was accused of conspiring with insurance agent Mark Strong Sr. to run a prostitution business in which she kept detailed records indicating she made $150,000 over an 18-month period. She was also accused of using a hidden camera to record sex acts without her clients’ knowledge.
She was originally charged with 106 counts. All the counts in the agreement were misdemeanors, including three counts relating to welfare and tax fraud that were reduced from felonies.
Strong, 57, of Thomaston, was convicted this month of 13 counts related to promotion of prostitution and was sentenced to 20 days in jail. He was originally charged with 59 counts.
The scandal became a sensation following reports that Wright had at least 150 clients, leading to a guessing game of who might be named publicly in the coastal town of Kennebunk. Attorneys who have seen the client list say it included some prominent names. Those who have been charged so far include a former mayor, a high school hockey coach, a minister, a lawyer and a firefighter.
Working together, Strong and Wright represented an unusual pairing.
Wright had attended college classes and ran dance classes for the local parks and recreation program before opening her studio in Kennebunk. But she was also engaging in paid-sex acts in the studio, in her apartment and in her office, law enforcement officials said.
Overseeing the operation and watching the sex acts live on his office computer 100 miles up the coast was Strong, a married father of two who ran a successful insurance agency in Thomaston.
It came as no surprise that Wright would seek a plea agreement because evidence presented in Strong’s trial was so overwhelming. A video played for jurors showed Wright engaging in sex acts with a man who then inquired about her rate before leaving $250 cash on her massage table.
After the man left, the video showed Wright pocketing the money.
There was plenty of electronic evidence because the two kept in touch via text and email and because Wright videotaped the clients and Strong watched live via Skype. Videos showed them speaking openly of ledgers, payments and scheduling.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will seek restitution of $57,250 from Wright after she’s released from jail.
Defense lawyer Sarah Churchill said Wright is married and employable, and she expects Wright will be able to enter into a payment plan. Churchill left the courtroom without talking to reporters.
Residents of Kennebunk were frustrated by the media coverage of the scandal.
Names of purported clients trickled out as they were charged, leading to speculation about who else might be on the list. But residents soon grew weary of the media’s attention, especially after it became clear that only a few of clients were locals.
So far, 66 people have been charged as clients, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said. The state will continue to pursue charges against additional people identified on Wright’s ledger if the evidence is strong enough to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt, she said.
Things have largely returned to normal in Kennebunk. On Friday night, a free dance was being held at Wright’s old Pura Vida Studio, where Zumba continues under new management and a new name, Danceworks.
Jeremiah Ouellette, manager of New Morning Natural Foods Market, across the street from the fitness studio, said residents have put the prostitution episode behind them.
“I think people have really lost interest,” Ouellette said Friday evening. “People really don’t care anymore.”
Early in Thursday’s “American Idol” top nine results show, Ryan Seacrest presented contestant Paul Jolley with a framed certificate declaring March 16 “Paul Jolley Day” in Paul’s hometown of Palmersville, Tennessee–right before ruining Paul’s current day by informing him that he was in the bottom three. Poor Paul then had to drag that plaque all the way to his stool of shame. This wasn’t quite as cruel a bait-and-switch as the one Ryan pulled on Chris Daughtry or Michael Johns the nights those contestants went home, but still, it wasn’t very nice.
And now Paul’s going to have to haul that heavy wall-hanging all the way back to Palmersville, because he was eliminated in ninth place this week. However, he took the news admirably well, declaring, “Hey, I have my own day! I think that’s pretty great, right?” So Jolley stayed jolly till the very end. Good for him.
Given the negative critiques that Paul’s Lennon & McCartney Night “Eleanor Rigby” performance garnered this week–compounded by his season-long identity crisis, as he repeatedly insisted that he wanted to be a country singer while one of country’s biggest superstars, Keith Urban, insisted that Paul wasn’t country at all–his elimination was not a shock. Nor was it an injustice. But the way the rest of the top three panned out kind of was.
This week’s bottom threeJoining Paul in the bottom three were Devin Velez and Amber Holcomb, two very excellent vocalists–but not Lazaro Arbos, this season’s far-and-away weakest singer, who gave what Randy Jackson called his “worst performance ever” on Wednesday and received even harsher criticism from Jimmy Iovine on Thursday. The audience boos that resounded when Amber (who Jimmy said should’ve been in the topthree) and Devin were sent to the bottom-three stools must have made Lazaro feel pretty lousy. And if this keeps happening, week after week, he’s going to feel lousier, as he quickly morphs from sob-story sweetheart to Sanjaya-style punching bag and Vote For The Worst posterboy. Lazaro, who seems to be a little thin-skinned and has dealt with enough bullying in his life already, needs to leave “Idol” before that happens–for his own sake, as well as the show’s.
Anyway, midway through the episode, Season 10’s sixth-place jazzbo Casey Abrams and his bassy made a very welcome return to the “Idol” stage, to perform a scatty version of the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There.” And it was some of the most fun I’d witnessed all season. Casey’s wild performance was a sad reminder that while some of this year’s contestants are stupendous singers, none of them are as interesting or entertaining as the kids from Casey’s cast, when the show had big talents with big personalities like Casey, Haley Reinhart, James Durbin, Paul McDonald, and Naima Adedapo. Those were some good times.
Neanderthals had family sex, great eyes, and a terrible time hunting varmints
Our thick-browed, extinct friends known as the Neanderthals have been all over the news lately. The latest find? Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have sequenced and published a high-quality Neanderthal genome taken from a toe bone found in a Siberian cave, reports the Associated Press. In celebration of the breakthrough, here are 5 fascinating things about Neanderthals that you may not have known:
1. They kept sex all in the family
When scientists put a 100,000-year-old skull from China’s Nihewan Basin together, they foundsomething curious on top of it — a hole. An uncovered “soft spot” should be rare, yet researchers have found 22 Neanderthal skulls with a similar defect, leading them to believe that “the simplest explanation is that small and unstable human populations forced our ancestors to inbreed,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. Yes, inbreeding is normally linked to cognitive problems, but it’s better than watching your species die out in the icy Pleistocene era. You know what they say: If you can’t be with the one you love, breed with the one you’re with.
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2. They had great vision and terrible social skills
Neanderthals’ brains were about the same size as our own. So why weren’t they able to adapt? A study led by Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford found a possible answer in their large eye sockets. Neanderthals may have been forced to devote a lot of their brain power to their eyesight to see in the dim, foggy north. It’s possible that it limited the development of their frontal lobes, making it so “they could only maintain a social group size of around 115 individuals, rather than the 150 that we manage,” according to New Scientist.
If they had been able to socialize better, they might have survived. Dunbar’s colleague, Eiluned Pearce, told Discovery News that “smaller social groups might have made Neanderthals less able to cope with the difficulties of their harsh Eurasian environments because they would have had fewer friends to help them out in times of need.”
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3. They had trouble catching pesky rabbits — possibly a fatal flaw
Neanderthals were great at hunting mammoths. Rabbits? Not so much. That’s the conclusion reached by John Fa, biologist at the United Kingdom’s Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, who found that rabbit remains only started showing up in Europe 30,000 years ago — around the time Neanderthals started to disappear and our human ancestors started taking their place. The study points out that “as climate change or human hunting pressure whittled down populations of Iberian large animals such as woolly mammoths, rabbits would have become an increasingly important food resource,” accordingNational Geographic. For whatever reason, the theory goes, Neanderthals couldn’t adjust.
4. Scientists think we could bring them back to life
That genome data in Germany could come in handy if scientists ever want to bring a Neanderthal back to life. According to National Geographic, we could do it by embracing the Jurassic Parkmethod: Tweak a human cell to match Neanderthal DNA, and implant it in a chimp or human mother. “Going from engineered cells to whole organism has been especially well established in mice, and [there’s] no obvious reason why it would fail in other mammals,” Harvard geneticist George Churchtells National Geographic. We assume they will all look and act like Saturday Night Live‘s Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.
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5. They were extreme travelers
You wouldn’t think that short, big-boned Neanderthals would do a lot of running and walking, but a new study suggests that they covered a lot of ground. According to ScienceNews, the study found “a dearth of older individuals in fossil samples suggesting that life spans were limited due to the rigors of constant travel, and an absence of skeletal injuries in excavated fossils that would have prevented vigorous movement.” A possible reason for all that roaming: They were looking for suitable rocks to put on the ends of their spears, says David Nash of the University of Brighton.
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Wearing a T-shirt with “killer” scrawled across it, a teenager cursed and gestured obscenely as he was given three life sentences Tuesday for shooting to death three students in an Ohio high school cafeteria.
T.J. Lane, 18, had pleaded guilty last month to shooting at students in February 2012 at Chardon High School, east of Cleveland. Investigators have said he admitted to the shooting but said he didn’t know why he did it.
Before the case went to adult court last year, a juvenile court judge ruled that Lane was mentally competent to stand trial despite evidence he suffers from hallucinations, psychosis and fantasies.
Lane was defiant during the sentencing, smiling and smirking throughout, including while four relatives of victims spoke.
After he came in, he calmly unbuttoned his blue dress shirt to reveal the T-shirt reading “killer,” which the prosecutor noted was similar to one he wore during the shooting.
At one point, he swiveled around in his chair toward the gallery where his own family members and those of the slain teenagers were sitting and spoke suddenly, surprising even his lawyer.
“The hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory,” he said, then cursed at and raised his middle finger toward the victims’ relatives.
A statement released later to local media by the court on the judge’s behalf said that he wasn’t aware of the shirt and that if he had noticed it he would have halted the proceedings and ordered Lane to wear proper attire.
A student who was wounded in the rampage dismissed Lane’s outburst.
“He said it like a scared little boy and couldn’t talk slow enough that anyone could understand him,” said Nate Mueller, who was nicked in the ear in the shooting.
Dina Parmertor, mother of victim Daniel, called Lane “a pathetic excuse for a human being” and wished upon him “an extremely, slow torturous death.” She said she has nightmares and her family has been physically sick over the crimes.
“From now on, he will only be a killer,” she said, as Lane’s smile widened. “I want him to feel my anger toward him.”
Prosecutors say Lane took a .22-caliber pistol and a knife to the school and fired 10 shots at a group of students in the cafeteria. Daniel Parmertor and Demetrius Hewlin, both 16, and Russell King Jr., 17, were killed.
Lane was at Chardon waiting for a bus to the alternative school he attended, for students who haven’t done well in traditional settings.
Six days before the rampage, Lane had sent a text message to his sister, who attended Chardon High school, and mentioned a school shooting, Geauga County Prosecutor James Flaiz disclosed after the sentencing. He gave no details about what the message said.
“The way the text message was phrased to his sister, I’m not sure she would have taken it as anything. I think only when you look at it in retrospect does it really have the impact that it does now,” Flaiz said.
Lane’s sister, Sadie, was in the cafeteria the day of the shooting, and said outside the snow-swept courthouse that the brother she saw in court wasn’t the one she remembers. She asked for prayers for her family.
“It may be hard for some to understand, but I love my brother and hope that whatever the sentencing in life takes him in the future, that he can touch others’ lives in a positive way from the point of view that only he can give,” she said.
She spoke and left the courthouse before Flaiz addressed reporters.
Flaiz said he has a theory about the motive but wouldn’t discuss it until he has a chance to meet with the families of victims and answer their questions.
Lane’s courtroom behavior came as a surprise, he added.
“I am totally disgusted by that,” Flaiz said. “What he did today is consistent with what we thought of him all along.”
One of Lane’s defense attorneys, Ian Friedman, also said he was caught off-guard by the comments. The defense had signaled earlier that Lane wouldn’t speak in court and didn’t want anyone to speak for him.
Lane had pleaded guilty last month to three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of felonious assault.
Life imprisonment without parole was the maximum sentence Lane faced. He wasn’t eligible for the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the shootings. Relatives of the slain students indicated earlier they wanted Lane to get the maximum sentence.
In addition to three life sentences without chance of parole, Geauga County Common Pleas Judge David Fuhry also gave Lane sentences totaling 37 additional years for attempted murder and felonious assault and using a weapon in the crimes.
Spring Breakers helmer Harmony Korine, on the verge of having his first breakout hit after a most eclectic career, has made a deal for his next film to be produced by John Lesher’sLe Grisbi Productions and DCM Productions. Spring Breakers will open wide this week through A24 after garnering a huge per-screen average in limited release, starring James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and the director’s wife, Rachel Korine.
The title and log line of the new film are under wraps, but I’ve heard it involves a multi-generational family of criminals in the South.Spring Breakers producer Charles-Marie Anthonioz will also produce the film. This is likely to be Korine’s next directorial effort, but he is also developing projects with Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures; she bought Spring Breakers at Toronto last fall. Korine’s new jail-bait sex kittenesque heist film seems to finally have delivered on the commercial promise he showed with his early breakout film, Kids. Some of his follow-ups, including Trash Humpers, you could imagine David Lynch watching and going, “What the hell? This is really out there.” Lesher has long been a Korine supporter; he was his agent for many years at UTA and then Endeavor, before he took the top job at Paramount and then became a producer.
Lesher most recently produced End Of Watch, and he also produced Blood Ties, the English-language debut of Guillaume Canet that stars Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis and James Caan. Lesher’s about to begin production in New York on the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed dark comedy Birdman with Michael Keaton, Ed Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts, and Black Mass, the Barry Levinson-directed crime thriller that will star Johnny Deep as Boston crime kingpin Whitey Bulger.
Berlin-based production/distribution company DCM’s production division is run by Marc Schmidheiny and Christoph Daniel. They co-financed and produced the Dustin Hoffman-directedQuartet and the Oscar-nominated Norwegian film Kon-Tiki. CAA reps Korine.
This Fashion Faceoff is going to be epic.
Any two of these three women — Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Hudson — would make for a fierce bout. However, this time we have a three-way battle between the new Mrs. Timberlake, former “American Idol” judge J.Lo, and onetime “American Idol” contestant Hudson.
Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Hudson (WENN/AP/Getty)
What they wore: A nude, lace, long-sleeved dress by Dolce & Gabbana.
[Related: Fashion Faceoff: Julianne Hough vs. Khloe Kardashian]
When they wore it: Biel, 31, was the first to step out in the dress at an afterparty for the Dublin premiere of her movie “Total Recall” in August. One month later, 31-year-old Hudson chose it for Hearst’s 125th Anniversary Celebration in New York, and Lopez, 43, tossed it on for a January appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
[Related: Jennifer Lopez Reveals Where She Keeps That Daring Grammys Dress]
How they styled it: Biel added black pointed-toe heels and a Fendi clutch to the dress and loosely pulled back her locks. Both Lopez and Hudson went with half-up, half-down hairstyles and dangling earrings, but they differed in their choice of footwear. J.Lo slipped her feet into metallic-and-leather Christian Louboutin heels, and JHud selected sparkling pumps from Charlotte Olympia.
Judge’s scorecard: “On the Floor” singer Lopez edges out the competition on shoes. When it comes to hair, though, Hudson’s is, hands down, the champ. Biel’s hair and shoes aren’t my favorites, but how hot does she look rocking that dress? It makes me want to do calf raises immediately.
Text messages introduced Thursday in the rape trial of two Ohio high school football players provided differing accounts of what happened between them and a 16-year-old girl: one from a defendant described mutual sex, while another from the alleged victim said she couldn’t remember what happened.
The flurry of text messages sent around the eastern Ohio city ofSteubenville after the alleged rape last year were presented as evidence on the second day of the trial before Special Judge Thomas Lipps, who is hearing the case without a jury.
“Swear to God I don’t remember doing anything with them,” the girl wrote to a friend who authorities say saw the assaults. “I wasn’t being a slut. They were taking advantage of me,” she also wrote to the same boy.
Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, are charged with digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, first in the back seat of a moving car after a party Aug. 11 and then in the basement of a house. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The two maintain their innocence.
Prosecutors insist the girl was too drunk to consent to sex, while defense attorneys have portrayed her as someone who was intoxicated but still in control of her actions.
Witnesses have said the girl was so drunk she threw up and had trouble walking and speaking.
In one text after the alleged assault, the girl told a boy who prosecutors say watched the attack, “Wait, I think I was drugged. I know I have no memory from after I left” the party.
The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and has led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of a pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
The texts introduced Thursday in juvenile court also included an admission by Mays that he digitally penetrated the girl. In other messages, he told friends he’d participated in a different, mutual sex act with the girl.
He also sent messages to his friends to try to get them to gloss over what happened that night. In a text to a boy who lives in the house where the second attack is said to have happened, Mays wrote: “Just say she came to your house and passed out.”
Additional testimony Thursday came from Sean McGhee, a former Steubenville high school student who said he considered the girl his friend, and said she was extremely drunk the night of the party. He said he was upset after hearing about the alleged assault and texted Mays.
Dissatisfied with Mays’ account, he texted back: “I saw the pix, bro. Don’t lie.”
Walter Madison, an attorney for Richmond, challenged McGhee’s account, saying he may have exaggerated in his mind the girl’s intoxication because of his anger over the allegations.
Authorities said they collected 17 cellphones in their investigation. The evidence they yielded is considered crucial to prosecutors’ case against the boys because of photos taken that evening.
Three teenage boys who are key to the prosecution’s case are to take the stand this week. Defense attorneys could call the girl to testify since a West Virginia judge ruled Tuesday night that she and two of her friends could be subpoenaed.
If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail until they turn 21.
The Associated Press normally does not identify minors charged in juvenile court, but Mays and Richmond have been widely identified in news coverage, and their names have been used in open court.