Thursday, December 5, 2013
PORTLAND — While acknowledging his clean record and community involvement, Justice Nancy Mills decided Thursday that Mark Strong Sr. needed to pay a significant price for his role in promoting a one-woman prostitution business from a Zumba studio in Kennebunk.
Mark Strong Sr. comforts his wife Julie after she became emotional while addressing Justice Nancy Mills during Strong's sentencing at Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Thursday.
Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer
Mark Strong Sr. leaves the Cumberland County Courthouse and is taken to jail after receiving a 20-day sentence and a $3,000 fine for his role in the Zumba prostitution case.
"Mr. Strong was involved in all aspects of this business," Mills said before sentencing him to serve 20 days in jail and pay a $3,000 fine.
"One of the most chilling discussions I watched (during the trial) was Mr. Strong discussing whether (alleged prostitute Alexis Wright) could get more customers in. It was like he was trying to get her to sell two cars instead of one."
Before he was sentenced, Strong made a tearful apology for his actions.
Mills ordered Strong, 57, of Thomaston, into custody after imposing the sentence.
Strong's attorney Daniel Lilley asked for the jail sentence to be postponed pending an appeal, but Mills denied that request and a request that Strong be temporarily freed on bail.
Strong was convicted on March 6 in York County Superior Court after a jury trial on 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution. Prosecutors said he worked with Wright from October 2010 to February 2012 and kept detailed written and video records of the operation.
Mills, who issued her sentence in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court, also ordered Strong to pay $80 per day during his jail term as reimbursement for his incarceration.
"I am satisfied that he does accept responsibility," she said after hearing Strong's apology. "Punishment is not the overreaching goal of the criminal justice system."
Strong, dressed in a charcoal suit, white shirt and line-patterned tie, struggled to read his written apology to the court, sounding choked up and at times tearful.
"Mostly I'd like to apologize to my wife and my sons and my entire family for causing so much harm," he said. "The next right thing for me to do is to ask for the help I need for myself, my spiritual growth, to become the person that I want to be."
Strong's wife, sons and many other family members submitted letters to support him and were present in court during the hearing.
Defense attorneys had asked for a sentence of no more than 14 days in jail, while prosecutors sought a longer punishment of a year with a $24,000 fine.
Mills took a recess part way through the sentencing proceedings as Strong's wife, Julie, broke down in tears asking her for leniency.
"Go easy on my husband," Julie Strong begged. "He clearly has learned from this experience."
Julie Strong spoke with their son, Bradley, by her side.
"What started as my greatest nightmare has turned into one of God's greatest gifts," she said. "It has given me a new marriage with a new man."
She said her husband has now returned to being the man she knew when she met him.
After the recess, Mills said that she took into consideration the length of time the prostitution business was in operation, that Wright allegedly saw three to four clients a day, three to four times per week and had more than 140 clients.
But the judge said she also took into consideration that Strong had no prior criminal record, has been employed his entire life and was significantly involved in trying to improve his community.
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Mark Strong Sr. listens to the proceedings prior to his sentencing in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on Thursday morning.
Greg Rec / Staff Photographer