ALFRED — Justice Joyce Wheeler declined to grant a dismissal Friday in the case against Mark Strong Sr., a Thomaston man charged with promotion of prostitution in a case that involves alleged activity that occurred at a Kennebunk Zumba studio.

Defense attorney Dan Lilley of Portland, representing Strong, requested the dismissal based on the failure of the York County District Attorney’s Office and the State of Maine Attorney General’s office to provide discovery evidence within the required 10-day period after Strong’s arraignment.

The DA and AG’s offices are the prosecuting entities in the case, with the latter’s involvement due to potential tax issues that may have resulted in the alleged activity at Pura Vida Studio, which is owned by Alexis Wright of Wells.

“Discovery should have been given to me by no later than Aug. 10, and that hasn’t happened yet,” said Lilley, in York County Superior Court Friday morning.

Lilley argued that the charge against Strong, a Class D misdemeanor, was too minor a violation to warrant a delay in the transmission of discovery evidence, and that the state’s failure to comply jeopardized his ability to provide Strong with an adequate defense.

York County Assistant District Attorney Justina McGettigan cited the large volume of evidence as the reason for the delay, saying there were “literally terabytes of data” that was seized from the fitness studio, including audio and video files that allegedly depict Wright engaging in sexual acts with clients.

Lilley said he had been invited to the Kennebunk Police Station earlier this week to view the stores of evidence collected during a months-long investigation, but that he was not allowed to retrieve any of the evidence.

“We want to make sure that, when we bring the prosecution forward, that we have the evidence to back it up,” said McGettigan.

Maine Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein argued that dismissal was too extreme a sanction, and that the court should instead grant a continuation to Lilley in order for him to construct an adequate defense.

“The nature of the discovery is volume, and how to handle it,” said Bernstein. “That was the nature of the delay.”

Bernstein added that, as a practical matter, it would take a significant amount of time to copy the DVDs and computer files contained within the discovery evidence.

Wheeler, a Portland judge specially assigned to the case, agreed that dismissal was not an appropriate sanction, but admonished the prosecution for not providing discovery evidence sooner, imploring the AG’s and DA’s offices to start providing evidence by as early as next week.

“I don’t think this was intentional ”¦ to deny Mr. Strong discovery,” said Wheeler, “but I do think the state has gotten over its head in the volume of evidence. Everything needs to be made available to Mr. Lilley as soon as possible.”

Justice Wheeler’s order came after she denied a previous motion from Lilley to recuse herself from the case. The motion noted that Kate Lawrence, an assistant attorney general involved in prosecuting the case, is married to Jonathan Nathans, who works as Wheeler’s law clerk, and Lilley argued that Wheeler should recuse herself in order to spare the appearance of conflict or impropriety.

Respectfully, Wheeler declined the motion, saying that Nathans has no involvement in the Strong case.

Strong, 57, was arrested in July and charged with promotion of prostitution, and to date is the only one charged with a crime in connection with the alleged prostitution activity. A Kennebunk police affidavit filed in July indicates that there may be video evidence of Wright engaging in sexual acts with clients, but Wright has so far not been charged with a crime.

McGettigan said that is because the prosecution is diligently working on assembling the evidence necessary to make a strong case for Wright’s involvement.

Lilley said that he would rather have the evidence now than be granted a continuation, which would delay the start of a possible trial.

“Lack of getting a speedy trial has affected (Strong) deeply,” said Lilley. “If we can get a trial and an acquittal, our client can resurrect his life. Time is not our friend in this case, it’s our enemy.”

— Staff Writer Jeff Lagasse can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 319 or [email protected].

        Comments are not available on this story.

        filed under: