POLL QUESTION

‘Taxpayers should be pleased’ with resources devoted to Kennebunk Zumba prostitution trial, prosecutor says

York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan (right) and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon speak to reporters outside the York County Courthouse in Alfred Wednesday after a jury convicted Mark Strong on 12 counts of promoting prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution.
York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan (right) and Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon speak to reporters outside the York County Courthouse in Alfred Wednesday after a jury convicted Mark Strong on 12 counts of promoting prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution.
Posted March 06, 2013, at 5:23 p.m.
Last modified March 06, 2013, at 7:33 p.m.

ALFRED, Maine — York County’s top prosecutor in the now-famous Kennebunk prostitution case defended the resources expended convicting Mark Strong Sr. of 13 misdemeanor counts Wednesday.

York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said “taxpayers should be pleased” by the time-consuming and costly law enforcement effort that has resulted, so far, in the conviction of Strong on 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution.

Strong’s alleged accomplice, accused prostitute Alexis Wright, is scheduled to face a separate trial later this spring — although McGettigan said a settlement conference with Wright and her attorney, Sarah Churchill, is scheduled to take place next Wednesday.

In addition to Kennebunk police and the local district attorney’s office, the prostitution investigation involved the Maine State Police major crimes unit and computer crimes task force, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspector’s office, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, and officials with police departments in Saco, Thomaston and Cambridge, Mass., among others.

Kennebunk police Lt. Anthony Bean Burpee said the case tied up one of his officers and two state police detectives full time.

Strong’s attorney, Daniel Lilley, frequently described the case as overkill, saying his client faced difficult odds against the state’s “unlimited resources” and at one point before the trial referred to what he called “prosecutors on steroids.”

But McGettigan defended the effort on Wednesday after the guilty verdict was announced, saying police and the district attorney’s office are obligated to prosecute crimes under Maine law.

“Prostitution is not legal in Maine. We don’t promote prostitution,” McGettigan told reporters. “We don’t want it in our communities and the Kennebunk Police Department did a fabulous job of investigating this, despite all the negative comments that were thrown out that it was a poor use of resources. In fact, it was a good use of resources because it makes our communities safer.”

The use of resources is slated to continue. In addition to the Wright case, which still must be resolved, McGettigan said law enforcement officials are continuing to comb through evidence in the case to determine if more alleged johns can be charged.

Wright allegedly kept meticulous records of the prostitution, including a ledger of more than 150 clients. Nearly 70 of those individuals have been charged with engaging a prostitute, and as many as 18 have pleaded guilty and paid fines.

“The List,” as it came to be known, included some prominent local residents. Curiosity about who else is on it has helped propel a local scandal to the global media stage.

McGettigan said the statute of limitations for engaging a prostitute is three years from the date of the alleged incident, and investigators will continue compiling evidence in the coming weeks to determine if there is enough to charge additional individuals.

In addition to Wright’s ledgers and lists, police seized nearly 120 hours of video footage of Wright allegedly having sex with different individuals for money. Video clips totaling 45 minutes, showing one such encounter with an alleged john, were shown to the jury during the Strong trial.

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