November 28, 2012

One or two trials in Kennebunk prostitution case? Lawyers can't agree

Prosecutors have appealed for a single trial, but the parties hope to resolve the issue before a judge rules.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED – Although a judge decided this month to sever the prostitution cases against Alexis Wright and her alleged conspirator, Mark Strong Sr., attorneys are still arguing over whether the two should be tried together.

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Alexis Wright, left, and Mark Strong Sr.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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On Monday, Wright's attorney filed an objection to counter the state's continuing attempts to have Wright and Strong tried at the same time.

Sarah Churchill's filing came just over a week after a prosecutor filed a motion asking Justice Nancy Mills to reconsider her decision on Nov. 9 to grant separate trials.

Despite the legal maneuvering, Churchill said all parties are trying to resolve the disagreement, possibly by telephone conference as early as this week.

Wright, a former Zumba instructor from Wells, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, invasion of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.

Police allege she ran a prostitution business from her Zumba studio in Kennebunk.

Strong, a businessman from Thomaston, has been indicted on 59 misdemeanor charges of promotion of prostitution, violation of privacy and conspiracy to commit those crimes. He also has pleaded not guilty.

The case has drawn international attention, in part because Wright allegedly kept detailed records of more than 150 clients, including some prominent figures. As of this week, 62 people have been charged with engaging a prostitute. Four pleaded guilty and paid fines.

The judge decided to sever Wright's and Strong's cases after their attorneys filed motions seeking separate trials.

York County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon subsequently asked the judge to reconsider, arguing that because the two are charged as co-conspirators, they should be tried together. A joint trial would also save money, he said.

Churchill, however, said the large amount of evidence in the case could confuse a jury, Wright and Strong may have different defenses, and Wright faces charges that Strong does not face.

"Any time there is a large number of charges, there is a chance of confusion of the jury," Churchill said Tuesday. She said she believes her arguments in Wright's trial will differ from those that Strong's attorney, Daniel Lilley, plans to use.

Lilley sent a letter Nov. 8 to Kennebunk's police chief, the chairman of the town's selectmen, county and state prosecutors and Churchill, in which he said Strong suspects he was arrested in retaliation for his own investigation of the Kennebunk Police Department.

Based on that letter, Churchill said, she believes Strong's defense will differ from the defense she plans for Wright.

She declined to discuss her defense plans. Lilley did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The lead prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, also did not return a call seeking comment.

 

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

sdolan@mainetoday.com

 

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