March 20, 2013

Prosecution seeks year in jail for Zumba defendant

But lawyers for Mark Strong Sr. are recommending that he serve no more than two weeks, and are asking 12 of the 13 verdicts to be invalidated.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Prosecutors will ask a judge to sentence Mark Strong Sr., who was convicted this month in the Kennebunk prostitution scandal, to a year in jail, followed by two years of suspended jail time.

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Mark Strong, Sr., right, and his attorney Dan Lilley

Greg Rec / Staff Photographer

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Strong's attorneys are asking that he be sentenced to no more than 14 days in jail.

Justice Nancy Mills is scheduled to hear from both sides at Strong's sentencing Thursday morning in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court.

In a case that made international news, prosecutors say that Strong and Alexis Wright worked together to operate a one-woman prostitution business from her Zumba studio in Kennebunk.

On March 6, a jury in York County Superior Court found Strong, 57, of Thomaston, guilty of 12 counts of promotion of prostitution, each punishable by as much as a year in jail, and a single count of conspiracy, punishable by as much as six months in jail.

After a 12-day trial, the jury took just four hours to reach its verdicts.

The defense has a pending motion asking Mills to invalidate the guilty verdicts on 12 of the 13 misdemeanor counts, citing constitutional concerns.

The lawyers argue that prosecutors never spelled out how Strong's actions promoted prostitution.

Mills is scheduled to hear the motion first on Thursday, before the sentencing.

The defense proposes that Strong be fined $1,000 and given no jail time for the conspiracy charge.

Strong's lawyers say that if the judge does not throw out the verdicts on the other 12 counts, he should be given a jail term of no more than 14 days with fines of $2,000 to $5,000.

In their 14-page sentencing memorandum, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon say, "The criminal enterprise stretched over a year and a half with individual crimes occurring three or four times a day, three or four days a week. It is difficult to envision a more serious promotion of prostitution case."

The memorandum also introduces evidence not brought forward at trial, saying that Strong tried to get Wright to have sex for money with groups of people, rather than just individuals, and that Strong received 20 percent of all of Wright's proceeds.

"Mark Strong Sr. is heard in one video telling Alexis Wright to have sex with more than one man at a time in one session at $300 each to maximize the amount of money she can make in one session," the prosecutors' memorandum says.

"Cash deposits into Mark Strong, Sr.'s bank account match a 80/20 split of money as discussed in notes in Alexis Wright's notebook that was introduced into evidence."

Prosecutors recommend that Strong be on administrative release for two years after a year in jail, with conditions.

He would be prohibited from profiting from his crime, having contact with Wright or possessing pornography.

He also would have to undergo a psychological evaluation and submit to any counseling or treatment recommendations.

The prosecution also requests that Strong be fined $24,000.

Strong's defense portrays him as a married businessman and father of two with strong ties and community involvement in Thomaston, and no criminal history.

He was a selectman, a youth sports coach and a community volunteer, his lawyers say in their sentencing memorandum.

"Mark Strong is loved by his family and friends, who describe him as unfailingly generous, thoughtful and extremely remorseful for how his poor personal decisions -- and the resultant criminal charges and publicity -- have negatively and perhaps irreparably impacted those closest to him," says the memorandum filed by Daniel Lilley and Tina Nadeau.

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