March 4, 2013

Prosecution rests case in Zumba trial

By Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

ALFRED — The prosecution in the trial of Mark Strong Sr. unexpectedly rested its case Monday without calling to the stand any of the convicted "johns" in the Kennebunk prostitution case.

Strong's defense plans to rest Tuesday.

The lead prosecutor, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, said in an email to the judge over the weekend that she intended to call eight of the men who have been convicted of engaging Strong's alleged business partner, Alexis Wright, for prostitution.

But on Monday, Justice Nancy Mills told the jurors in York County Superior Court that the prosecution and Strong's attorneys had agreed that videos seized from Wright's properties in Kennebunk and Wells contained images of her engaging in sex for money on dates from April 2011 to February 2012.

Mills said both sides agreed that Strong had taken corresponding snapshots of Wright's sex acts from video transmitted over the Internet, and that the jurors could accept her statements as fact without hearing from the witnesses.

After the prosecution's last witness testified and the jury left the courtroom for lunch, Strong's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss 12 of the 13 charges against him.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, is charged with conspiring with 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 said she would hear arguments Tuesday morning on the motion to dismiss the 12 counts of promotion of prostitution.

In its motion, the defense cited testimony from Friday in which the lead investigator in the case said she thought Strong was a "pimp" and defined a pimp as someone who profits from prostitution.

The defense argued that Strong did not benefit financially from his relationship with Wright so the prosecution has not proven its case.

Under state law, prosecutors do not necessarily have to show that Strong received any money to prove the charge.

The lead investigator, Kennebunk police Officer Audra Presby, was the state's final witness Monday. She testified that she was "shocked" to see her name in notes that were seized in a raid on Strong's properties.

Presby testified that during the raid on Strong's insurance office on July 10, 2012, she saw a notepad containing notes about her and the former lieutenant from her department with whom she had an affair, and the names of other members of the Kennebunk police force.

"I was quite taken back," Presby said. "I had never met this man, and my name and other members of my department were all over that legal pad. And it was shocking."

Strong's attorney Daniel Lilley contends that police targeted Strong in "retribution" for his investigation into unprofessional conduct in the Kennebunk Police Department.

Lilley tried repeatedly Monday to ask Presby exactly when she became aware that Strong, a licensed private investigator, was investigating the department.

But each time, McGettigan objected and Mills sustained her objection.

Presby was on the witness stand for her third day of testimony as Strong's trial entered its third week.

She revealed in her testimony that Wright's video recorded the police raid at her business office at 1 High St. in Kennebunk on Feb. 14, 2012. And Strong had video snapshots of the raid on his computer, which police seized.

Presby said the snapshots showed a close-up of the nameplate on her uniform and a shot that showed her, the police chief and Wright in a single frame.

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