A list of 21 men accused of paying 29-year-old Zumba instructor Alexis Wight for sex was released by Maine police on Tuesday, exposing former South Portland Mayor James Soule as an alleged client, just the latest development in an unfolding prostitution scandal that has left residents of Kennebunk, Maine shocked.
Soule, 58, served as mayor of South Portland, a city with a population of roughly 25,068, in the early 1990s and again in 2007. Soule caught many South Portland residents by surprise during his 2007 inaugural speech, when he announced his desire for the city to secede from the rest of Maine.
“There is no need for partisan politics when we unite against our common oppressive enemy: the state of Maine,” Soule declared in the speech.
John Baldacci, then governor of Maine, slammed Soule’s idea, saying, “People in responsible positions like the mayor’s position, should be about uniting people, shouldn’t be about playing people or regions off against each other.”
But while many of Soule’s colleagues seemed shock by his bold proposal, they seemed less surprised by his appearance on the infamous johns' list.
South Portland City Councilor Maxine Beecher, who worked with Soule during his last term, said he had a reputation for being outlandish. "We all kind of chuckled about some of the things he asked for," she told the Portland Press Herald. "I certainly knew I didn't take him very seriously."
The Daily Mail reported that the former mayor’s older brother, Mort Soule, 67, said the news did not surprise him because of his brother’s long history of “irregular activities.”
“I have not spoken to James but to those who know James well, very well, I should say they would really not be surprised,” said Mort. “There is a pattern in his life that includes irregular activities. I’m not talking about pranks or anything, but these activities are calculated.”
Mort reprimanded his brother’s behavior, and said that it had shamed their family. “He does these things because he wants to do them. He probably thought he could get away with it, but he got caught,” he added.
But an attorney for the former mayor downplayed the severity of the charges against Soule, claiming that the entire scandal had simply been blown out of proportion.
"I have never in 40 years seen so much ado about so little, but that's more ... a function of the times we live in than anything else," said Soule’s lawyer Peter DeTroy. "It's a Class E misdemeanor, which never generates any jail time. It's a fine."
DeTroy added that while his client “feels terribly” about the scandal, he expected that his close friends and family members would not judge him too harshly. DeTroy added that prostitution, so long as it is a consensual transaction, is legal in many parts of the world.
"It's a question of a willing seller and a willing buyer,” he said, adding that Soule most regretted the “impact… on his family and his friends. That’s truly the most dreadful situation.”
Another list of names is expected to be released on Oct. 26, when police issue legal summonses to more of the men on Wright’s alleged client list.