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Defense attorneys in Kennebunk prostitution case let high court deadline pass, set stage for oral arguments

Gregory Rec | Portland Press Herald/Pool
Gregory Rec | Portland Press Herald/Pool
Mark Strong Sr. (left) and co-counsel Tina Nadeau listen to Daniel Lilley address Justice Nancy Mills on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 at York County Superior Court in Alfred.
By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — Defense attorneys in the first of two major Kennebunk prostitution trials will let stand their initial argument for why 46 of the 59 charges against their client should be thrown out.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court deadline of 4 p.m. Thursday for any additions to the defense’s initial brief in the case passed without a new filing.

That likely means the trade of paper arguments in the law court has come to an end, and only oral arguments remain before the case can be returned to the York County Superior Court level for trial.

The trial of Mark Strong, who is accused of helping fitness instructor Alexis Wright operate a prostitution business out of her Kennebunk Zumba studio, was bounced to the state supreme court level before jury selection could be completed in Superior Court.

During a pretrial hearing on Jan. 25, Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills granted a defense motion to dismiss 46 of the 59 charges against Strong — all of the privacy invasion counts — leaving behind 13 promotion of prostitution counts.

That decision was immediately appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court by prosecutors from the York County district attorney’s office and state attorney general’s office.

Mills denied a subsequent defense motion to continue on with a trial on the remaining 13 charges while waiting for a higher court ruling on the appeal, opting to put the case on hold until that supreme court decision is made.

The law court then released an aggressive schedule for the appeal, acknowledging an initial defense brief and calling for the prosecution response — as well as briefs by any additional interested parties — by 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4.

The schedule included due dates of Thursday for another defense rebuttal, if the attorneys chose to augment their initial brief, and Monday, Feb. 11, for a second prosecution reply.

But no new briefs were filed by Strong’s team Thursday, indicating the defense has taken a pass on its opportunity to bolster its documented argument, and likely rendering moot a second prosecution brief Monday.

That leaves oral arguments before the state supreme court justices Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. before the high court can make its ruling and return the case — with either 13 counts or 59, depending on its decision — to the Superior Court for trial.

Regarding the disputed 46 privacy invasion charges, Strong’s attorney, Daniel Lilley, argued that Maine privacy laws are meant to cover bathrooms, locker rooms and private homes, not to protect individuals engaged in illegal activity such as prostitution. Prosecutors have countered that an individual committing a crime is not exempted from simultaneously being a victim of another crime.

Wright is scheduled to face a separate trial in May.

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