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Mark Strong: Prostitution charges retaliation for investigating Kennebunk PD; ‘I am a businessman’

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Mark W. Strong Sr., 57, listens in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland with his attorney Daniel Lilley Tuesday Oct. 9, 2012 where he was arraigned on 59 criminal charges. Those include 12 counts of promotion of prostitution, two counts of conspiracy, and 45 counts of invasion of privacy with an inside device.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

KENNEBUNK, Maine — The Kennebunk Police Department is responding sharply to a statement made by one of t wo main defendants in an alleged prostitution case, that accuses the agency of retaliating against him for his probe of the department’s actions.

Defendant Mark W. Strong Sr. of Thomaston denies breaking any laws in the news release, which was issued Wednesday by the office of Strong’s attorney, Daniel Lilley.

“It is my belief that the Kennebunk Police department, with Officer [Audra] Presby heading up the investigation, publicly charged me with one count of promotion of prostitution and arrested only me on July 10, 2012, and confiscated computers in my house and place of business as retaliation against me for my investigation of their department,” Strong stated in the news release.

He said the affidavits filed by Kennebunk police in the state district court in Alfred were prejudicial, defamatory and not accurate.

“The charges against me are untrue. I have made some bad choices but have broken no laws. If these charges are not dropped, I will be vindicated in a jury trial which I have demanded be held as soon as possible,” Strong concluded in his one-page statement.

Strong said he met Alexis Wright — his co-defendant in the prostitution case — several years ago online, and they developed a personal relationship. He said he never had sex with her for money.

“I am a businessman, and I loaned her money to start a legitimate Zumba dance studio with the usual promissory notes at commercial rates of interest,” Strong said.

He said she repaid those loans. Strong said he also co-signed a lease so she could rent a studio but did not promote or participate in her business.

In the release, Strong said his investigation of the Kennebunk department revealed that a police officer shot a woman four times, killing her, but no one was charged.

The Kennebunk Police Department issued a news release of its own late Wednesday night in response to Strong’s statement.

“While it would be inappropriate for the town to try this case in the media, and it will not do so, Mr. Strong’s press release is inaccurate in many instances that portray both the department and several of its sworn officers in a false light and that must be corrected,” the release from Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee stated.

He again denied that the department harassed Wright or Strong ,and he stressed that both were investigated based on probable cause that one or more crimes had been committed at the dance studio operated by Wright in Kennebunk.

The lieutenant said search warrants were obtained and executed with the knowledge of the district attorney’s office and signed by a judge.

Bean Burpee also stated that Strong did not discover the police-involved shooting referred to in the statement because it previously had been investigated by the state attorney general’s office, reported on fully in the media at the time, and the officer was cleared.

That incident occurred March 27, 2011, in Kennebunk when Officer Joshua Morneau shot 39-year-old Katherine Paulson as she approached him with a knife with an 8-inch blade, according to the Maine attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s investigation concluded on Aug. 2, 2011, that it was reasonable for the officer to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him and that he believed it was necessary to use deadly force to protect himself.

The investigation found that the officer and other Kennebunk police responded to the residence of Paulson’s mother when she called police to ask that her daughter be removed from the home. Officer Morneau ordered Paulson to drop the knife more than once before he fired four shots into her, according to the state investigation.

“For Mr. Strong now to say that he ‘discovered’ this incident is not only false, but an inappropriate exploitation of an incident that remains tragic for all involved. It has absolutely nothing to do with the dance studio investigation and illegal activities there,” Lt. Bean Burpee stated Wednesday evening.

Lilley said Thursday that Strong believes he was targeted because his investigation was unwelcome by Kennebunk police. He noted that the attorney general’s office has always found that police shootings are justified.

The lieutenant also said that disciplinary action taken three years ago against the female officer conducting the investigation of the prostitution case for the department is unrelated to the prostitution investigation. Bean Burpee said the officer was given a written reprimand for having a romantic relationship with another officer in the department. The other officer resigned, and the two are now engaged, he said.

“This incident did not then, nor now, have anything to do with the dance studio investigation,” Bean Burpee stated.

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