February 26, 2013

Evidence complaint rejected in Zumba case

Meanwhile, the judge and lawyers review pornographic videos to determine which ones should be allowed into evidence.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED — A judge rejected Mark Strong Sr.'s effort to have the charges against him in the Kennebunk prostitution case dismissed Tuesday, as legal challenges and questions about evidence kept the jury out of the courtroom for most of the day.

click image to enlarge

Mark Strong Sr. talks with his attorney, Dan Lilley, in York County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, center, and Daniel Lilley, defense attorney for Mark Strong Sr., talk during a hearing recess. At left is Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon and at right is Tina Nadeau, co-counsel for Strong. Nadeau and Lilley argued on Tuesday for charges against Mark Strong Sr. to be dropped. They said prosecutors had failed to release key evidence before the trial that could have been used in Strong's defense.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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Attorneys for Strong, who is on trial for the second week in York County Superior Court, argued that the prosecution violated his constitutional rights by failing to release evidence before the trial that could have been used in his defense.

As recently as Tuesday morning, the defense had received piles of evidence, including more than 100 pages of police reports, notes, videos and audio recordings.

"These are beyond discovery violations. These are due-process violations," defense attorney Tina Nadeau argued before Justice Nancy Mills. "Enough is enough."

But Mills said there are alternatives to dismissal of the case. Strong's attorneys can be given more time to explore late material as it arises; Mills could instruct the jury about new evidence; or witnesses could be re-called to explore the new evidence, she said.

"Considering the overwhelming amount of material that has been generated and provided in this case, no one's perfect," the judge said.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, is charged with conspiring with Alexis Wright to run a prostitution business from her Zumba studio in Kennebunk. He faces 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiring to promote prostitution.

Mills dismissed jurors for the day around 2 p.m. as she met with prosecutors and defense attorneys in her chambers to review which videos, emails, text messages and photos should be allowed to be shown to the jury.

Prosecutors argued to include some pornographic material while trying to exclude other sexually explicit evidence.

On Monday, prosecutors argued to include many of at least 577 sexually explicit pictures that they say Strong saved as he watched a live video stream, from Thomaston, of Wright engaging in sex acts with prostitution clients in Kennebunk.

They argued that the pictures document prostitution, while Strong's attorney said the evidence would be prejudicial to the jury without proving he was involved in prostitution.

On Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon argued that new pornographic material, such as one video of Wright having sex with a woman, should be excluded as "not relevant." Gordon did not explain why.

Mills said she wanted to have a final decision on which explicit evidence will be allowed before the trial resumes Wednesday.

Prosecutors were able to call only two witnesses Tuesday, and jurors were in the courtroom for a total of about an hour.

A state police cellphone specialist, Detective Leonard Bolton, testified that Wright and Strong made contact 25,111 times by calls, text messages and data transfers from Jan. 1, 2010, to Feb. 28, 2012. That's an average of about 32 contacts a day.

U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Desrosiers testified that Wright sent 25 Express Mail packages to "Strong Investigations, Attn: Mark Strong" on various dates in 2011 and 2012.

The defense contends that Strong was targeted by police in "retaliation" for his work as a private investigator looking into unprofessional conduct in the Kennebunk Police Department.

Strong's attorney Daniel Lilley said Strong investigated an affair that the lead investigator in the prostitution case had with her supervisor, an affair between a different Kennebunk police officer and his supervisor, a fatal shooting in 2011, and a shooting in which the police chief shot himself in the leg before he was chief.

Kennebunk has a policy against fraternization between supervisors and their workers, punishable by termination.

On Friday, the judge ordered the release of a letter of reprimand against the lead investigator, Audra Presby, and on Tuesday she ordered the release of reports related to the fatal shooting.

Wright, 30, of Wells, is scheduled to stand trial in May on 106 counts, including promotion of prostitution, engaging in prostitution, violation of privacy, conspiracy, tax offenses and receiving welfare benefits when ineligible.

The case has drawn international attention, in part because Wright is suspected of keeping a meticulous list of customers, including prominent figures.

Sixty-six people have been charged and 18 men had been convicted by the end of last year.

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


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