I’d like to say a few words about a bizarre twist in the reporting on the zumba prostitution case. The public seems confused by way the names of the accused have been released, drip by drip, over time. In the news reporting on the matter, repeated references have been made to “the list” of the names of all illicit patrons of the Kennebunk zumba studio. If there is a comprehensive list, then why are the names of those on it dribbled out instead of being released all at once? To explain, there is a set of statutes called the Criminal History Information Act that controls what information about police investigations may be released to the public and what information must not be released to the public. Any comprehensive list of names would fall into the category of investigative information that is not to be disclosed to the public. However, once a person is summonsed, the fact that the person was summonsed and any charge for which the person is summonsed is information that may be disclosed to the public. This is the standard police blotter stuff that shows up in local newspapers all the time. In the zumba case, as each person has been summonsed, the fact that he has been summonsed and the charge for which he has been summonsed have become information open to the public. The rest of the names and any suspicion surrounding those names remain within the realm of police investigative information that is not to be publicly disclosed.
Aside from information about arrests and summonses, what other information having to do with criminal charges regularly shows up in the local paper? Conviction information, that’s what. When a person is convicted of a crime, the fact of the conviction, the charge for which the person is convicted and the penalty that is imposed all fall within the category of “conviction data” under the Criminal History Records Information Act. This information is entirely open to the public, which brings me to the point of this little piece. Today, in the Portland Press Herald, it is reported that 4 men, who were not summonsed by police and were therefore not on any lists of names released to the public, recently pled guilty to engaging a prostitute, in York County Superior Court. But do you know what is missing from the story? Why, the names of the guys who pled guilty, that’s what. The reporter reports that Attorney Gary Prolman, who represented one of the guys who pled guilty and paid a fine, said he and his client did nothing to try to circumvent the process. Well of course they didn’t, for crying out loud. How can anyone possibly suggest that a person circumvents the criminal justice process by walking into court and pleading guilty? However, we might legitimately wonder what’s going on with the reporting of the story when those who have admitted guilt are allowed to remain anonymous while those who have merely been summonsed get their names rolled out in the newspaper and read over the airwaves by Howie Carr on Friday afternoon. Isn’t that a little askew? It’s a strange day when the identity of an merely-accused person is more newsworthy than the name of a person who has been convicted of the same charge, especially given that the identity of the convicted person is entirely a matter of public record. The lack of journalistic curiosity makes me curious- and you?
UPDATE 11/15/2012: The Press Herald ran another story on the 4 guys who entered guilty pleas today, and they did name names, so the convicted are now on parity with the merely-accused as far as publicity goes. Apparently the reporters were suspicious that the attorneys who represented the 4 went to court and entered pleas for their clients by written authorization. That process is frequently used in misdemeanor cases that involve only a fine, so it’s nothing nefarious here, especially in the case of the one guy who lives in Arizona.
Ed Folsom, Biddeford, Saco, Portland, Maine Criminal Defense, OUI, DUI Attorney. York County, Cumberland County.