February 12, 2013

Court to hear arguments in state's appeal in Zumba case

State looking to restore 46 counts against Mark Strong Sr.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND -- The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday afternoon on the state's appeal in the case of Mark Strong Sr., one of two key defendants in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case.

click image to enlarge

Mark Strong Sr.

Staff photo by Tim Greenway

Strong's trial was to begin last month in York County Superior Court, when the judge presiding over the case dismissed 46 of the original 59 counts against him.

Prosecutors appealed the judge's Jan. 25 decision to the state's high court, seeking to restore the 46 counts of invasion of privacy.

Strong's trial has been postponed until the Supreme Judicial Court issues a decision on the appeal following Wednesday's arguments.

Jury selection had been mostly completed when Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills allowed a motion by Strong's attorneys to dismiss the counts. The pool of 250 potential jurors is scheduled to be dismissed at the end of the month, in which case jury selection would have to start over with a new pool.

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 of helping her to make video recordings of her encounters with customers.

Thirteen charges are still pending against Strong: 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and a single count of conspiracy to promote prostitution.

The oral arguments Wednesday bring together all the key lawyers in the prostitution case in one place, before the state's top seven judges.

York County prosecutors will present their arguments that the counts were dismissed in error. Strong's attorneys are expected to make counterarguments that the violation of privacy charges do not apply in this case, and that prostitution customers do not have an expectation on privacy while committing a crime.

Wright's attorney has also filed a brief to the Supreme Judicial Court as an interested party, since Wright is charged with an identical 46 counts of violation of privacy.

Wright, 30, of Wells, is scheduled to stand trial on a total of 106 counts against her in May. She has pleaded not guilty to all counts, which include the violation of privacy charges, promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.

The case has drawn attention in part because Wright is suspected of keeping a meticulous list of more than 150 alleged customers, including prominent figures. At least 66 have been charged so far and at least 18 have pleaded guilty to engaging a prostitute.

Scott Dolan: 791-6304

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