Maine judge won’t dismiss charges in Zumba trial
ALFRED, Maine (AP) – A judge on Tuesday refused to throw out charges against an insurance agent accused of helping a fitness instructor use her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution.
Lawyers for Mark Strong Sr. asked the judge to punish prosecutors for repeatedly missing deadlines for turning over discovery materials, even as more than 100 pages of police reports, notes, videos and audio recordings were provided to the defense on Tuesday.
“They’re beyond discovery violations. They’re due process violations,” defense lawyer Tina Nadeau told Justice Nancy Mills. “Enough is enough.”
But Mills said there were other less-drastic remedies that include delaying testimony to give the defense more time to review the materials and giving special instructions to jurors.
Strong’s trial has been marked by delays caused by motions and appeals. At one point, jury selection was delayed by more than three weeks while prosecutors sought to reinstate 46 invasion-of-privacy counts that the judge dismissed.
The remaining 13 counts against Strong focus on promotion of prostitution with dance instructor Alexis Wright. Both pleaded not guilty.
The defense says Strong had an affair with Wright and helped her launch her Pura Vida studio in Kennebunk by co-signing for her lease but knew nothing about allegations that prostitution was taking place at Wright’s studio, office and home.
On Tuesday, a state police investigator specializing in cellphone records testified that Wright and Strong were in constant contact, with 25,111 phone calls, texts and data transfers between the two of them from January 2010 to February 2012.
A postal inspector also testified that Wright sent a number of packages to Strong.
The defense contends Kennebunk police targeted the 57-year-old Strong, who held a private investigator’s license, because he was conducting an investigation into unprofessional conduct by Kennebunk officers.
On Tuesday, Mills ordered prosecutors to give Strong’s lawyers a police file involving a Kennebunk officer involved in a shooting. Previously, prosecutors had to turn over a written reprimand against the lead investigator, who had an affair with her boss.
The defense is expected to mine the material to try to discredit investigators.
Still up in the air was how many pornographic images jurors would see. The judge had yet to rule on a request to prune back the 577 images prosecutors wanted to introduce.
The images were found on Strong’s computer, and prosecutors contend they show Strong knew Wright was working as a prostitute. The defense argued that pornography possession isn’t a crime and the photos could “horrify” jurors and make them biased against Strong.
The prostitution scandal attracted international attention last year after it was reported that Wright had ledgers indicating she made $150,000 over 18 months and had more than 150 clients.
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