Judge OKs separate trials in Kennebunk prostitution case

Posted Nov. 13, 2012, at 9:07 p.m.
Accused madame Alexis Wright 29, of Wells, Maine is pictured during an arraignment hearing at Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland, Maine on October 9, 2012. Wright, who prosecutors say ran a prostitution business in Kennebunk for nearly a year and a half, was indicted on October 3, 3012 by a York County grand jury.
Rich Beauchesne | Reuters
Accused madame Alexis Wright 29, of Wells, Maine is pictured during an arraignment hearing at Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland, Maine on October 9, 2012. Wright, who prosecutors say ran a prostitution business in Kennebunk for nearly a year and a half, was indicted on October 3, 3012 by a York County grand jury.
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.
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.

ALFRED, Maine — A Superior Court judge has agreed that Thomaston insurance company owner Mark Strong Sr. and co-defendant Alexis Wright of Wells should have separate trials in the Kennebunk prostitution case.

The prosecution asked in October for the trials to be joined, arguing that the defendants are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions connected to the alleged operation of a prostitution business.

But Strong’s attorney, Daniel Lilley of Portland, argued in a motion filed Friday that the 57-year-old Thomaston businessman would be unjustly prejudiced if he was tried at the same time as Wright.

“The prejudice that defendant Strong will suffer if he is tried jointly with defendant Wright is apparent,” Lilley stated in his motion.

Justice Nancy Mills agreed in a ruling issued Friday.

“These two cases are on distinctly different courses,” Mills stated.

Wright, 29, has provided several written and verbal statements to the prosecution that would tend to implicate Strong, according to Lilley’s motion. These statements include a proffer made on Aug. 20 by Wright to Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein, Assistant Attorney General Darcy Mitchell, Maine Revenue Service Agent Russell Veysey and Kennebunk Police Officer Audra Presby.

The motion does not state what Wright’s proffer detailed.

Wright’s attorney, Sarah Churchill of Saco, also filed a motion on Friday to separate the trials, pointing out that she made an off-the-record proffer to the prosecution that could be used against Strong.

“The prejudice to defendant Strong that would stem from the admission of even redacted portions of these statements would be devastating,” Lilley stated in the motion.

Strong’s attorney also stated that Wright is facing a host of charges that do not relate to his client’s case. The presentation of evidence against Wright on the tax evasion and welfare fraud cases would be highly prejudicial and irrelevant in the Strong case, Lilley said.

“With the current political climate such that it is, with the media and politicians demonizing those accused of stealing benefits, the taint of the association with defendant Wright would be nearly impossible to purge unless defendant Strong is tried separately,” Lilley stated.

Lilley also pointed out that many of the 106 charges against Wright are felonies. Strong’s 59 charges are lesser misdemeanors.

Both Wright and Strong have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Strong also does not want evidence that includes recorded pornographic acts to be allowed to impinge on Strong’s ability to defend himself against the charges, Lilley said.

Strong also wants a speedy trial, which Wright has not sought. Wright’s trial has been scheduled for May, although it could be earlier if she does not file any motions.

“Lastly, unless defendant Wright decides to take the stand, defendant Strong will have no means by which to compel her testimony or be able to cross-examine her on statements already made or other evidence presented. This demonstrates apparent prejudice,” the motion concluded.

The judge also has set a Dec. 12 date to hear any additional motions that might be filed on behalf of Strong. She set a similar hearing date of April 1 for any potential motions filed on Wright’s behalf.

In her latest motion, Wright’s attorney also pointed out that the prosecution’s reference to possible indicators of child pornography being found on a computer possessed by Strong has not been substantiated in any evidence provided to the defense but that the statement has tainted the potential jury pool.

Wright’s attorney also has stated that she intends to challenge the way the prosecution has handled the case and that this will make it impossible for Strong to get a speedy trial.

Justice Mills also denied Friday a request by Strong to dismiss the case due to claims by the defense that it had not received evidence in a timely manner.

Fifty-four men have been charged thus far with engaging a prostitute and the prosecution has said that its questioning of possible clients would continue through mid-December. Kennebunk police are releasing the names every other Friday.

Meanwhile, the Portsmouth Herald reported Tuesday that four men have pleaded guilty to engaging a prostitute and were not included on the three lists of names of alleged johns released by police in Kennebunk. The newspaper said that the four men were fined between $490 and $970 for the offenses.

“The four all admitted to paying cash for sex with accused prostitute Alexis Wright,” the paper stated.

Three of the men were from the Portland area and another from Arizona, according to the Portsmouth Herald.

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