January 21, 2013

No plea deal for Kennebunk prostitution case defendant

And in a 'bittersweet' ruling, Daniel Lilley loses his bid to withdraw as Mark Strong's defense attorney. The trial starts Tuesday.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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.

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Mark Strong Sr. leaves Cumberland County Courthouse following a hearing on a motion by his defense attorney, Dan Lilley, on Friday afternoon.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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Defense attorney Dan Lilley and his client, Mark Strong, speak to the media outside of Cumberland County Court following a hearing on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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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.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Mark Strong Sr., right, and his attorney, Dan Lilley, leave the Cumberland County Courthouse. Lilley's motion to withdraw from the case was denied on Friday.

AP / Robert F. Bukaty


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