ALFRED, Maine — The case against Mark Strong Sr., charged in connection with the Kennebunk prostitution investigation, is based on “innuendo and hearsay,” not real evidence, Strong’s attorney Daniel Lilley said in court Wednesday as he argued to have the case dismissed.
Lilley, representing Strong, 57, of Thomaston, who police allege worked with Alexis Wright, 29, of Wells to operate a prostitution operation out of her Kennebunk Zumba studio for more than a year and a half, presented two motions before Justice Nancy Mills in York County Superior Court on Wednesday. The first was a motion to suppress evidence, questioning the evidence police have and how they obtained it, and the second motion was to dismiss the charges, saying prosecutors still haven’t disclosed all evidence to him as ordered by the court.
Strong is charged with 59 counts of promotion of prostitution and invasion of privacy while Wright is charged with 106 counts including prostitution, tax evasion and invasion of privacy. Both have pleaded not guilty.
In court Wednesday, Lilley argued that the case against his client has been based on evidence that is “innuendo and hearsay.” Tina Nadeau, an attorney with Lilley’s firm, said in court that police used evidence seized from Wright’s properties to search Strong’s records, properties and vehicles. But that first search warrant police obtained, for Wright’s properties, was based on anonymous complaints and gossip, she said, and ultimately should be ruled inadmissible.
Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said Lilley has no standing to question the searches.
In addition, Lilley argued that while the court’s deadline under which he was to receive all evidence related to his client has passed, Lilley said Wednesday that he still is receiving materials from prosecutors and is missing a key piece of evidence — the hard drive containing the results of the investigation he says Strong was conducting into the Kennebunk Police Department.
Lilley said he hasn’t been able to open pieces of discovery provided to him by prosecutors and is still receiving new information, most recently materials from police Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee, dating to September of 2011, including statements from his client and Wright.
McGettigan said the state’s duty of providing discovery is an ongoing one and that materials will be presented as they are obtained.
“It’s always our intention to provide discovery,” she said. “If a report comes in after deadline, we will automatically turn it over.”
When it comes to the missing hard drive, McGettigan said Lilley “must be misinformed.”
“He has everything from the state. We went to great lengths to get him that information,” she said. “We’ve taken extraordinary measures of not only providing discovery but providing it in a format that each [defendant’s attorney] indicated they wanted to open it in.”
McGettigan asked the judge to meet separately, away from the public, when Lilley asked specifically if prosecutors have the hard drive containing the investigation Strong says he was conducting.
Lilley says his client began the investigation at the request of Wright, who said she was being harassed by the department. During the investigation, Lilley says Strong learned of the officer-involved shooting of Katherine Paulson and a romantic relationship between Audra Presby, the department’s lead investigator in the case, and her superior.
While both incidents were covered publicly and extensively by the media at the time, Lilley said Strong’s report will help to show that the charges against him are retaliation by the Police Department.
“We have a theory that my client was singled out and charged with promotion of prostitution at a time that he was investigating investigators,” Lilley said in court, “and that he had gotten too close to some of the material obtained on that hard drive.”
After the hearing, Lilley said the state is saying the hard drive “doesn’t exist. We’re saying it does.” Lilley did not get into further detail of what could be on the hard drive, or any other evidence that his client was in fact investigating the department, but said he has been given “notes” the state seized as evidence from Strong that indicate he interviewed people about the “professionalism or lack of professionalism in the Kennebunk Police Department.”
Mills did not issue decisions Wednesday and said she needed to conduct additional research before doing so.
If the judge rules to suppress the evidence, Lilley said it would suggest that would be the “end of the case for all defendants.” In his view, Lilley said the evidence is “more gossip than it is fact,” and he hopes the judge will see it that way.
While Lilley said his goal is to take the case to trial next month, he said it’s unclear how that will unfold.
“We’ve got to figure out what they’ve got, what they’ll turn over and whether they got it legally or illegally,” he said.
A separate motion asking that the trials of Wright and Strong be conducted together was also still pending Wednesday. Mills said she wrote a decision on the motion and intends to file it with the court, but declined to disclose that decision in court Wednesday.