Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald/AP
06/01/2013 at 10:00 AM EDT
A Zumba fitness instructor at the center of a prostitution scandal
featuring sex videos, adultery and more than 100 clients told a judge who sentenced her Friday to 10 months in jail that she's happy to have escaped her former life.
Sniffling and fighting back tears, Alexis Wright said she felt relief when police raided her business on Feb. 12, 2012, because she wanted out.
"In my eyes I'm free. I'm free from this," she told the judge. "I have an incredible amount of strength that I knew was in me somewhere. Now that I have the strength I want to encourage others to come forward. I want them to know that there's at least one person out there who'll believe their story, no matter how crazy it seems."
The former single mother, who married Jayson Trowbridge last year, was accused of conspiring with insurance business owner Mark Strong to run a prostitution business in which she videotaped clients without their knowledge and kept detailed records over an 18-month period indicating she made $150,000 tax-free. She also collected more than $40,000 in public assistance.
The scandal in the seaside town of Kennebunk, known for its sea captain's mansions, beaches and New England charm, became a sensation following reports that Wright had at least 150 clients, some of them prominent. So far, those who have been charged include a former mayor
, a high school hockey coach, a minister, a lawyer and a firefighter.
So far, 68 accused clients have been charged and more than half have been convicted. Another 40 remain under investigation.
Wright's attorney, Sarah Churchill, told the judge that the defendant had a difficult childhood; she witnessed domestic violence and suffered sexual abuse before becoming an exotic dancer and meeting Strong. She said Strong used her troubled background to manipulate her.
The 30-year-old Wright was sentenced under a plea agreement to 20 counts including prostitution, conspiracy, tax evasion and theft by deception. Afterward, she was led from court to begin serving her sentence at a county jail.