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Modern-day Puritans wring hands over Zumba Madam’s list of shame

A Maine court will consider whether a prostitution 'list of shame' is a punishment too Puritanical even for New England, where the fallout may include schoolyard teasing and public shaming.

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Downtown Kennebunk, Maine. The police department's plan to release some of the more than 150 names of suspected prostitution clients was delayed Friday by last-minute legal wrangling. Alexis Wright has pleaded not guilty to prostitution, invasion of privacy, and tax evasion.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

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In the big scheme of things, the names of the “johns” who allegedly hired Kennebunk, Maine, Zumba dance instructor Alexis Wright for sex are simply a matter of public record if solicitation charges are leveled.

Yet on Monday, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court will consider whether what some have called Ms. Wright’s lengthy “list of shame” is a punishment too Puritanical even for New England, where the fallout may include schoolyard teasing and public shaming to add to the powerful intrigues of southern Maine towns and villages.

“We think there's a really important principle at stake here: These people are presumed innocent,” defense attorney Stephen Schwartz said. “Once these names are released, they're all going to have the mark of a scarlet letter, if you will.”

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In his fictional exposé of the Puritans who helped found New England, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in “The Scarlet Letter” that “there can be no outrage, methinks, against our common nature – whatever be the delinquencies of the individual – no outrage more flagrant than to forbid the culprit to hide his face for shame.”

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