January 16, 2013

Two sides to discuss plea in Kennebunk prostitution case

Mark Strong, a local businessman who is accused of co-running a prostitution business with a Zumba instructor, wants a deal with no jail time.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – One of the two key defendants in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case plans to meet with the prosecutor and a judge to discuss a plea agreement.

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Mark Strong Sr.

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Alexis Wright

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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The attorney for Mark Strong Sr. confirmed Wednesday that a settlement conference is scheduled Friday in Portland.

Strong, 57, a businessman from Thomaston, is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in York County Superior Court on 59 misdemeanor charges.

He is accused of conspiring with Alexis Wright, 30, a former Zumba instructor from Wells, to run a prostitution business from her studio in Kennebunk.

If he and the York County District Attorney's Office can't reach a plea agreement, the trial will begin with jury selection on Tuesday. It's expected to last three weeks.

The state has filed a preliminary list of 30 witnesses, and may call more.

Strong's attorney, Daniel Lilley, said he received a faxed letter Wednesday from Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, offering to meet Friday in a judicial conference.

Strong also is scheduled to appear Friday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court for a hearing on a motion by Lilley to withdraw as Strong's attorney.

Lilley said in a hearing before Justice Nancy Mills on Tuesday that he wanted to withdraw because Strong cannot afford to pay for the trial or expert witnesses. Mills said she wanted to talk to Strong before acting on Lilley's request.

Lilley said Wednesday that he didn't know whether Mills would preside over Friday's settlement conference or whether another judge would fill in for her.

Lilley said he and McGettigan "had a settlement discussion about 10 days ago in which they made an offer for a plea negotiation, and that fell apart."

He would not specify the offer but said Strong wanted a small fine and no jail time.

"We were way far apart," Lilley said of the prosecution's offer and what Strong had in mind.

Lilley said he doesn't want to be overly optimistic about Friday's conference.

To be acceptable to Strong, he said, the penalty "couldn't be jail time, and it couldn't be a big fine."

McGettigan confirmed that she sent a letter to Lilley and Mills offering to meet for a settlement conference, but she declined further comment.

Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against them in a case that has drawn international media attention.

Wright, who reportedly kept meticulous records, is charged with 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.

At least 66 people have been charged with the misdemeanor of engaging a prostitute in connection with Wright. As of Wednesday, 18 had pleaded guilty or been found guilty and fined. Seventeen of them have been identified previously.

The District Attorney's Office identified one more Wednesday in response to a Freedom of Access request from the Portland Press Herald.

Dennis G. Sillon, 64, of 476 Shapleigh Corner Road in Shapleigh pleaded through his attorney and was fined $800 and $170 in fees and court costs.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

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