March 6, 2013

Strong found guilty on all 13 counts in Zumba case

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Mark Strong Sr. and his co-counsel Tina Nadeau (foreground) look to the jury as the jury foreman calls out guilty on the thirteen charges against him at York County Superior Court in Alfred on Wednesday. Strong faced 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution for his connection with Alexis Wright, who is accused of running a prostitution business out of her Zumba studio in Kennebunk.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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Mark Strong Sr. center, faces the media after he was found guilty of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiring to promote prostitution Wednesday, March 6, 2013. To his right is his attorney Dan Lilley.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Asked about the resources it took to prosecute Strong, McGettigan said the taxpayers should be pleased with the outcome.

"Prostitution is not legal in Maine, we don't promote prostitution and we don't want it in our communities. And the Kennebunk police did a fabulous job investigating this despite all the comments that were thrown out that it was a poor use of resources," McGettigan said. "In fact, it was a good use of resources because it makes our community safer."

McGettigan said that while 66 people have been charged with engaging a prostitute in the case -- 18 have been found guilty -- more may be charged. She said the statute of limitations is three years.

Presby, who was targeted personally and professionally in defense arguments by Lilley, called the verdict "true vindication."

Lilley claimed that Kennebunk police targeted his client in "retaliation" for Strong's work as a licensed private investigator looking into unprofessional conduct in the department, on Wright's behalf.

Presby sat with her family in the courtroom as the verdict was read.

"Law enforcement doesn't come out every day to play games," she said afterward. "I took my job seriously, and I'm proud."

The police chief said the jury saw through Lilley's arguments.

"We stayed true to ourselves," said MacKenzie, who was dressed in uniform. "I'm very proud of Officer Presby."

McGettigan said in her closing argument Tuesday that Strong was not motivated by love for Wright, as Lilley claimed, but by money.

She said documented text messages, emails, phone calls and video chats between Strong and Wright from October 2010 to February 2012, including a detailed ledger with clients and an online calendar of Wright's appointments, indicated their business connection, as did Strong's name on the lease of the Zumba studio.

Police seized more than 120 hours of videos from Wright's properties on Valentine's Day 2012 and found nearly 14,000 explicit pictures of Wright with clients on computers seized from Strong's properties on July 10, 2012.

Prosecutors said Strong took those pictures through a video chat program on his computer in Thomaston, activating a camera in Wright's studio or her business office in Kennebunk.

Strong's attorneys countered by portraying Strong as being in love, saying his actions were those of a man concerned about the well-being of Wright, a single mother.

Lilley told jurors in his closing argument that two words stand out in the emails between Strong and Wright: "love and concern."

Lilley said, "Everybody has a different view of sex. Everybody has a different view of lust. You are not here to determine right or wrong. You may think you are, but you're not."

Lilley said prosecutors were "double-dipping" in charging his client with 12 charges of promotion of prostitution, including 11 counts for specific months and one "omnibus" count for a longer period of time.

Though Strong was on trial, witnesses mentioned Wright's name many more times than his.

Strong did not testify, and Wright was not called as a witness since charges against her remain pending.

Those charges include violation of privacy. Mills dismissed 46 such charges against Strong, ruling that clients of Wright's who were videotaped could have no expectation of privacy while committing a crime.

The dismissal prompted prosecutors to appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which upheld the judge's ruling.

It was the second time an issue in the trial had gone to the Supreme Court. Soon after jury selection began behind closed doors on Jan. 22, the Portland Press Herald challenged Mills' decision. The court ordered Mills to open the jury selection to the public.

On Wednesday, as a condition of Strong's release, he was ordered to not have any contact with Wright.

Wright's attorney, Sarah Churchill, appeared briefly at Strong's trial on Friday and spent an extended lunch break with a judge behind closed doors. She declined to comment on the discussion as she left the courthouse.

McGettigan said she and Churchill are scheduled to meet March 13 for what the prosecutor called "a settlement conference."

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

sdolan@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Mark Strong Sr. leaves the courthouse following his trial Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Strong was found guilty of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiring to promote prostitution.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Kennebunk Police Chief Robert MacKenzie, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan and Kennebunk police Officer Audra Presby speak with the media following the trial of Mark Strong Sr. on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Mark Strong Sr. speaks with the media outside the courthouse following his trial Wednesday, March 6 2013. Strong was found guilty of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiring to promote prostitution.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer



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