February 14, 2013

Attorney for Zumba defendant asks judge to lift gag order

Daniel Lilley seeks to have the order lifted, saying that lawyers also have First Amendment rights.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — An attorney for Mark Strong Sr., a key defendant in the Kennebunk prostitution case, asked the trial judge Thursday to lift an order that bars lawyers in the case from talking to the media.

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Daniel Lilley, attorney for Mark Strong Sr., makes his argument for upholding the dismissal of 46 invasion-of-privacy charges against his client in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday.

Staff Photographer

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Daniel Lilley filed the motion one day after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments on prosecutors' appeal to restore 46 counts related to violation of privacy against Strong. He still faces 13 other counts.

Lilley argued in his motion to reconsider the gag order that "lawyers, like the public, have protected First Amendment rights that may only be infringed upon in narrow circumstances."

The trial judge, Justice Nancy Mills, has already admonished Lilley once for speaking to the media in violation of the order she issued at the beginning of the jury selection process on Jan. 22.

Jury selection stopped when prosecutors appealed Mills's decision on Jan. 25 to dismiss the 46 counts.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, is accused of conspiring with Alexis Wright to run a one-woman prostitution business from her Zumba studio in Kennebunk, and helping her to make video recordings of her encounters with customers.

Wright, 30, of Wells is scheduled to stand trial on 106 counts in May.

The prosecution sought to halt Strong's trial proceedings when it filed its appeal, and Lilley sought to go forward with the remaining 13 counts.

He told the Portland Press Herald that the prosecution had gotten "cold feet" and urged the prosecution, in colorful language, to go forward with the trial without delay: "As we say in Maine, fish or cut bait."

Mills warned Lilley in York County Superior Court: "Any further violation of the order will be dealt with by me."

Lilley suggested alternatives to the gag order in his motion, including a more exhaustive jury selection process, a new venue for the trial, a postponement of the trial until media attention subsides, or sequestration of the jury.

"The Court has not considered less restrictive or possibly effective means to achieve its goal of seating a fair and impartial jury, means that do not impinge unduly upon both counsels' and Strong's First Amendment rights of free speech," he said in the motion.

Strong's trial cannot continue until the state supreme court decides whether to uphold Mills' decision to dismiss the 46 counts. The high court gave no indication when it would rule, and the current jury pool in York County is scheduled to be dismissed at the end of this month.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

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