February 27, 2013

Zumba jurors watch video showing naked Wright

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED — Alexis Wright appeared naked in a video that jurors watched Wednesday in the trial of Mark Strong Sr., as prosecutors introduced the first sexually explicit evidence in the high-profile prostitution case.

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Alexis Wright and Mark Strong Sr.

File photo

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The video showed Wright drop the towel she was wearing as she stood in a picture window where men on the street could see her.

Wright could be heard narrating the striptease as she stood with a sign saying "studio."

"And now I'm going to drop the towel," Wright said in the one-minute, 45-second video. "And he's taken notice. They've both taken notice. And they're watching."

On Thursday, prosecutors plan to play a 50-minute sexually explicit video for the jurors in York County Superior Court.

Strong is accused of conspiring with Wright to run a one-woman prostitution business from her Zumba studio in Kennebunk. He is the first of the two to stand trial.

Hundreds of sexually explicit pictures and videos have triggered sometimes-testy legal arguments in court this week.

An exchange between a prosecutor and defense attorneys Wednesday morning highlighted the tension as the court considered which sexually explicit material to show to jurors.

The jury was out of the courtroom, reading printed text messages that were sent between Strong and Wright, as lawyers looked through stacks of color photos of what appeared to be nude bodies.

Justice Nancy Mills told prosecutors to pick representative photos from about 577 images that Strong saved on his computer while he watched a live video stream of Wright having sex with alleged prostitution clients.

Prosecutors argued that the photos should be shown to jurors because they document prostitution. Strong's attorneys said the images prove only that he watched the sex acts, not that he was involved in prostitution. They argued against showing the pictures, saying the "very sexual" images would prejudice the jury.

The lead prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, tried to present five photographs from over the course of one month to show multiple men allegedly engaging Wright for prostitution.

One of Strong's attorneys, Tina Nadeau, objected. She asked McGettigan during a short exchange whether she was conceding that there must be multiple clients to prove the existence of a prostitution enterprise.

"The state's not conceding anything," McGettigan snapped, raising her voice as Strong's other attorney, Daniel Lilley, joined the argument.

"This isn't helping. This isn't helping at all," Mills cut in as the lawyers began talking over one another.

Mills later said, "Let's keep in mind what we discussed last night. There are 13,000 photographs. The state's trying to submit, what, 30?"

The video was the first risque piece of evidence shown to everyone in the courtroom since Strong's trial began last week.

Jurors looked through about two dozen explicit pictures Wednesday, handing them, one at a time, from juror to juror without any visible reaction. Reporters, Strong's family and other spectators in the courtroom saw the pictures only in glimpses as they passed from juror to juror.

The pictures were among about 100 explicit images that prosecutors entered as exhibits Wednesday. The video and the pictures were shown while a computer analyst, Saco Detective Frederick Williams, testified. Williams was the only witness called Wednesday.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, is accused of helping to promote Wright's illegal business. He faces 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiring to promote prostitution. This is the second week of his trial, which is expected to last more than three weeks.

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