PORTLAND — Mark Strong Sr., one of two principal defendants in the Kennebunk Zumba prostitution case, left the courthouse Friday with his attorney Daniel Lilley to face a throng of television cameras, microphones and reporters, a taste of the media attention he’s likely to face Tuesday, when his trial is slated to begin.
Strong said very little. Neatly dressed in a navy suit, blue shirt and striped tie, he left most of the talking to Lilley.
“I really don’t have a comment,” Strong said.
Lilley cut in after the next reporter’s question, saying, “He really doesn’t want to talk about that.”
Strong, a businessman from Thomaston, faces 59 misdemeanor counts, including promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy to commit those crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Strong and his attorneys, Lilley and Tina Nadeau, had entered into closed-door plea talks in the Cumberland County courthouse in Portland on Friday morning at 8 a.m. They met until around 11:30 a.m. with York County prosecutors Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon before Justice Thomas Humphrey, without coming to an agreement.
None of the participants discussed what happened during the talks. They went directly from that meeting to a scheduled hearing in open court on a motion that Lilley filed earlier in the week seeking to withdraw as Strong’s lawyer.
Justice Nancy Mills, who will preside at Strong’s trial, denied Lilley’s motion, effectively ordering him and Nadeau to stay on as Strong’s attorneys at trial. Strong’s trial will begin with jury selection Tuesday morning in York County Superior Court in Alfred.
Lilley called the results of the day “bittersweet,” saying he was pleased to continue representing Strong but did not like having to do so without the resources necessary to match the resources the state has spent investigating and prosecuting the case.
Lilley had argued to withdraw from the case because adverse media attention had undermined Strong’s business and finances, leaving him unable to continue paying Lilley for legal defense during the upcoming trial or to hire legal experts to testify.
“We’ll have to go at it and see what happens,” Lilley said. “We’ll have to do it with our abilities.”
Authorities have accused Strong of conspiring with former fitness instructor Alexis Wright to run a meticulously documented prostitution business from her Zumba dance studio in Kennebunk.
Affidavits filed by police earlier in the investigation indicate that Strong, 57, may have helped Wright videotape her encounters with her customers. She is alleged to have kept a detailed list of up to 150 customers, including some prominent public figures.
Wright, 30, of Wells faces 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.
Her trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in May. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Lilley said he was not allowed to discuss what happened at the plea talks Friday morning. “There’s a lid on that,” he said.
McGettigan also declined to comment on the closed-door plea negotiations.
Jury selection in Strong’s trial is expected to take two or three days, and the trial itself is expected to last as long as three weeks. The court issued 250 questionnaires to potential jurors, and more than half of them are expected to attend the trial’s opening Tuesday.
The courtroom in Alfred has a capacity of 110 people and Mills said in an order regarding media coverage of the trial that “during jury selection, when the courtroom is filled with prospective jurors, there is little, if any, room for the public or media.”
During the trial, 20 courtroom seats will be reserved for the media, 60 for the public and 10 each for the prosecution, defense and for the court’s use.
McGettigan has filed a witness list for the prosecution with 57 names, including many police officers, bank and cell phone representatives, computer experts, Kennebunk locals and 18 men who have already pleaded guilty or been found guilty of the misdemeanor crime of engaging a prostitute in connection with the case.
The 18 men are among 66 people who have been charged so far with engaging Wright for prostitution.
Attorney Stephen Schwartz of the Portland firm Schwartz & Schwartz, represented three of the men who pleaded guilty and represents another eight who still have a pending charge against them.
“The decision whether to plead guilty is a highly personal decision in a case of tremendous notoriety,” Schwartz said. “Every one of these clients who did so made a decision with their eyes wide open.”
Schwartz said he made it clear that the men could potentially be called as witnesses if they pleaded guilty, since they would lose their Fifth Amendment right not to testify on grounds they might incriminate themselves.
All his clients who pleaded guilty did so with “full knowledge of all of the collateral damage,” he said.
“It’s really between them and their families,” Schwartz said. “Nobody is second-guessing their decision.”
Portland attorney Gary Prolman represents 11 men accused in the case, some of whom have pleaded guilty.
“For some people a guilty plea works, and for others it doesn’t,” Prolman said. “I think it should be known that we fully apprised our clients. We didn’t go into this thoughtlessly.”
Prolman said McGettigan made it clear in plea negotiations with his clients that there was a possibility she might call to the stand those who pleaded guilty.
Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at