A former high school hockey coach accused of paying a Zumba instructor for sex was acquitted Tuesday after a judge tossed out prosecution evidence.
The trial came to an abrupt halt when Justice Roland Cole barred prosecutors from showing jurors Alexis Wright's business ledger. The judge previously ruled that Wright didn't have to answer questions about her relationship with Hill.
Without Wright's testimony or the ledger, prosecutors had graphic photos of the two engaging in sex but no proof of money changing hands, the judge said.
Don Hill, former hockey coach at Kennebunk High School, contends he was in a relationship with Wright and that he never paid her for sex.
The trial became testy Tuesday with defense lawyer Gary Prolman suggesting the ledger was mishandled by law enforcement officials and calling into question the chain of custody.
Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan called the claim "outrageous."
"We believed the evidence was admissible. The judge disagreed and we respect the judge's decision and we'll move on to the next case," McGettigan said afterward.
The prostitution scandal in the quiet seaside community of Kennebunk gained attention because of the large number of clients — as many as 150 — many of whom were videotaped without their knowledge. Clients included a former mayor, a minister, a lawyer and a firefighter.
Hill, 53, of Old Orchard Beach, was one of 68 people charged so far with paying for sex with Wright. Fifty-nine of them have pleaded guilty or no contest.
The judge's ruling and order of acquittal don't affect the state's case against the eight other alleged clients who have requested jury trials, McGettigan said.
But prosecutors will evaluate whether there's video or photographic proof of money changing hands before bringing charges in 40 other cases that are still pending, she said.
Wright, 30, of Wells, avoided trial by pleading guilty to charges of prostitution, as well as several welfare- and tax-related charges.
Wright, who's serving a 10-month sentence, pointed out Hill in the courtroom Monday but wasn't required to testify about the nature of their relationship. Wright's business partner, Mark Strong, 57, of Thomaston, also testified briefly.