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Maine Zumba trial on hold pending appeal decision

  • Article by: DAVID SHARP
  • Associated Press
  • January 29, 2013 - 4:09 PM

ALFRED, Maine - A judge on Tuesday delayed the trial of a key figure in a prostitution scandal centered at a Zumba dance studio, telling lawyers that the state supreme court must rule on her decision to dismiss 46 counts before the trial can proceed.

The state supreme court quickly issued an expedited briefing schedule leading up to oral arguments on Feb. 13, delaying the trial at least two more weeks.

Lawyers for Mark Strong Sr. wanted to move forward on the remaining 13 counts, but Justice Nancy Mills said the high court ruling is necessary to avoid the possibility of two separate trials, should the counts be reinstated.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, was originally charged with 59 misdemeanor counts including conspiring with Alexis Wright, who's accused of using her Kennebunk dance studio as a prostitution front.

The 46 dismissed counts dealt with invasion of privacy of prostitution clients who were allegedly videotaped without their knowledge during sexual encounters.

In dismissing those counts, the judge agreed with the defense contention that people engaged in criminal acts don't have a right to privacy under a state law aimed at protecting the privacy of people in dressing rooms.

The 13 remaining counts all deal with promotion of prostitution, and one conspiracy count.

Both Strong and Wright pleaded not guilty to all of their charges. She will be tried at a later date.

The jury selection process moved in fits and starts with a pool of more than 140 potential jurors reporting to court a week ago. But a pair of appeals to the state supreme court, one focusing on the closed-door selection process, left potential jurors spinning their wheels for days on end.

Defense lawyer Dan Lilley repeated his assertion that his client has a right to a speedy trial and that prosecutors' decision to appeal the privacy counts' dismissal was frivolous.

But Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said the various charges are interconnected, requiring the same witnesses to testify to all of them.

The judge ruled that trial had to stop until the supreme court rules on the issue of privacy violations. Members of the jury pool remain on duty until March 1, so they could be recalled if the state supreme court rules before then.

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