Friday, March 7, 2014
ALFRED — The highly anticipated trial of Mark Strong Sr. in the Kennebunk prostitution case may have been derailed Friday, when the judge dismissed 46 of the 59 counts against him and prosecutors called for the trial to be halted while they appealed the decision.
Mark Strong Sr., right, talks with his attorney, Dan Lilley, after Justice Nancy Mills dropped 46 charges against Strong at York County Superior Court in Alfred on Friday morning. Strong still faces 13 counts.
Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer
Justice Nancy Mills listens to Daniel Lilley, attorney for Mark Strong, during a motion hearing at York County Superior Court in Alfred on Thursday.
Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer
On Friday morning, Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills granted a motion by Strong's attorneys to dismiss 46 counts of violation of privacy against him.
Prosecutors moved to appeal the dismissal before proceeding with the trial, the first of a key defendant in a case that has drawn international attention.
Strong, 57, of Thomaston, is accused of conspiring with Alexis Wright to run a one-woman prostitution business from Wright's Zumba studio in Kennebunk.
Some of the charges accused him of invading the privacy of Wright's alleged customers by videotaping their encounters with her.
Strong's attorney, Daniel Lilley, filed a motion Thursday to dismiss those charges, arguing that people who break the law by paying for sex can't have an expectation of privacy.
Mills agreed, saying in her ruling, "These patrons may have had a subjective expectation of privacy, but I can't find an objective expectation of privacy that society would be willing to accept."
The 13 remaining charges against Strong involve promotion of prostitution and conspiracy to promote prostitution.
The lead prosecutor in the case, York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, immediately called for a recess after the judge's ruling, called the state Attorney General's Office and sought to stop the trial when court resumed.
Lilley said there is no reason to halt the proceedings.
"My client can't stand another six to 12 months of publicity," he said. "He has a constitutional right for the trial. The state doesn't have a constitutional right to appeal or any of the other shenanigans they're pulling now."
Lilley asked the judge to seek intervention from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to salvage the jury pool and the jury selection that has been conducted.
On Thursday, the state supreme court ordered a stop to the jury selection process, which had been conducted in secret since Tuesday, in response to a motion from the Portland Press Herald challenging the constitutionality of Mills' decision to bar the public and the media from the proceedings.
Mills said Friday that she would take no further action on the case, pending the prosecution's appeal. She did give instructions to have the jury pool retained until next week.
She let the potential jurors leave for the day, with instructions to call after 5 p.m. Sunday to learn whether they will have to appear in court Monday morning.
Lilley and Strong spoke to the media outside York County Superior Court after court adjourned for the day.
"I really don't have any feeling right now. I've been kind of numb for a period of time now," Strong said. "I just want this to move on so I can move on."
Lilley said he would file a request with the supreme court by the end of Friday asking the court to rule on Strong's right to a speedy trial.
"We hope that the Law Court will take this on in an emergency basis, and we'll have a trial come Monday. This has been going on long enough," Lilley said. "I think that justice requires my client get his trial and get it soon."
McGettigan filed her appeal of Mills' decision early Friday afternoon.
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