January 2, 2013

Motions rejected in Kennebunk prostitution case

The trial of Mark Strong Sr., a key defendant in the Kennebunk investigation, is now set for Jan. 22.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED — A Superior Court justice on Wednesday rejected a motion by Mark Strong Sr., one of the key defendants in Kennebunk's high-profile prostitution investigation, to have the case against him dismissed. His trial is now set for Jan. 22.

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Mark Strong Sr.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Strong, 57, a Thomaston businessman, is accused of conspiring with Alexis Wright, a former Zumba instructor who authorities say ran a prostitution operation out of her studio in Kennebunk.

Strong's attorney, Daniel Lilley, had filed motions in early December seeking to have the case against the defendant dismissed on the grounds that authorities have failed to turn over evidence to the defense as required by law, and that evidence is still being brought forward as more people are charged as prostitution clients.

In a second motion, Lilley sought to have key evidence in the case against Strong suppressed on grounds that the lead investigator, Kennebunk police Officer Audrey Presby, did not provide proper evidence when she sought warrants to search Wright's properties in February, which led to the warrants to search Strong's properties in April.

Lilley also requested a hearing to call Presby into court to question her about her affidavits for search warrants of Wright's properties.

Justice Nancy Mills issued an order Wednesday in York County Superior Court in Alfred rejecting both motions and the request for a hearing, clearing the way for Strong's trial to begin.

Lilley, reached by telephone Wednesday afternoon, said he had not had a chance to read Mills' order and declined to comment until later in the week on the judge's decision.

Lilley also said he is unsure whether he will seek to change the venue for Strong's trial from York County Superior Court to another county.

The lead prosecutor in the case, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, declined to comment on Wednesday's decision or the possibility of changing the venue for Strong's trial.

Strong has been indicted on 59 misdemeanor charges of promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

Wright, 29, of Wells, has been indicted on 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.

Both have pleaded not guilty. Wright's trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in May.

At least 66 people have been charged with being prostitution clients of Wright. As of the end of December, 14 men had pleaded guilty or been found guilty of the misdemeanor charge of engaging a prostitute and were fined.

Wright allegedly kept detailed records of more than 150 clients, including prominent figures.

Lilley argued in presenting his motion to dismiss the case that prosecutors were releasing evidence in "dribs and drabs," as Kennebunk police continue to charge more accused clients in the case.

Kennebunk police have been naming the suspects charged in the case as part of the department's biweekly arrest blotter. The initial blotters included as many as 21 names at a time, but more recent weeks have brought only one or two new names. Other suspects have pleaded guilty in court before a criminal complaint could be issued against them.

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

sdolan@mainetoday.com

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