Prosecution seeks to recombine Zumba prostitution trials

Alexis Wright, 29, turns towards her attorney Sarah Churchill, left, during her Oct. 9 arraignment in Portland on 109 counts of prostitution, violation of privacy, tax evasion and other charges for allegedly providing sex for money at her Kennebunk fitness studio and office.
Joel Page | AP
Alexis Wright, 29, turns towards her attorney Sarah Churchill, left, during her Oct. 9 arraignment in Portland on 109 counts of prostitution, violation of privacy, tax evasion and other charges for allegedly providing sex for money at her Kennebunk fitness studio and office.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 19, 2012, at 3:09 p.m.

ALFRED, Maine — The York County District Attorney’s Office has asked Justice Nancy Mills to reconsider her decision to separate the trials of Mark Strong and Alexis Wright, who have been charged in connection with an alleged prostitution operation.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon pointed out that the judge issued her ruling without allowing the state an opportunity to respond to the points raised by attorneys for Wright and Strong.

The prosecutor stated that joint trials “promote efficiency and serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts.” The district attorney’s office also stated that joining the trials avoids needless repetition of evidence as well as added expense and delay.

No hearing date has been scheduled on the state’s request and Justice Mills has not issued a ruling on the request, a court clerk said Monday.

The trial of each defendant is estimated to take two to three weeks, according to the motion filed by Gordon. He said a consolidated trial would be of the same approximate duration.

He added that a joint trial is even more important when the charges involve conspiracy.

Wright, 29, of Wells, a Zumba instructor and owner of the Pura Vida Studio in Kennebunk, was indicted Oct. 3 on 106 counts involving alleged prostitution, conspiracy, violation of privacy and tax evasion.

Strong also was indicted Oct. 3 on 59 misdemeanor counts connected to the alleged prostitution operation, including violation of privacy, promoting prostitution, conspiracy to promote prostitution and conspiracy to commit violation of privacy.

The defense attorneys asked for the trials to be separated for several reasons. Strong’s attorney Daniel Lilley of Portland said his client wants a speedy trial and that this will likely not be the case for Wright. Mills ordered Strong’s case to go on the January trial list in York County while Wright is not scheduled until May.

The prosecutor said if the trials were held at the same time in the spring it would not be denying Strong a speedy trial. Strong was initially arrested in July.

The state also contends that nearly all the charges against both defendants are related to each other.

Lilley had argued 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, the defense attorney said.

Lilley also had expressed concerns about an off-the-record proffer made to the prosecution by Wright and her attorney, Sarah Churchill of Saco, concerning statements that could be used against Strong.

Strong’s attorney had argued that if those statements were submitted as evidence against either of them, he would not have had the opportunity to cross examine Wright if she did not take the witness stand.

While not providing details of its content, the state announced in its motion filed on Nov. 15 that it does not plan to accept the proffer.

Fifty-eight men have been charged thus far with engaging Wright as a prostitute. The next list of names is scheduled to be released Monday, Nov. 26. Four already pleaded guilty and were fined.

The state has said it expects that charges will continue against alleged johns to be issued into mid-December.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/11/19/news/portland/prosecution-asks-court-to-reconsider-and-combine-trials-in-alleged-zumba-prostitution-cases/ printed on September 15, 2014