ALFRED, Maine — Convicted pimp Mark Strong testified Monday in the trial of former Kennebunk High School hockey coach Donald Hill, who is charged with engaging the services of jailed prostitute Alexis Wright.
Strong, who was convicted by a jury of promoting a prostitution operation with Wright, said he has never seen Hill and expressed little knowledge about Skype computer screenshots or client ledgers detailing Wright’s sexual encounters.
Strong, 57, of Thomaston was the second witness called to the stand Monday. Hill, who said he believed he was in a relationship with Wright and is therefore not guilty, faces a $1,000 fine if convicted.
Skype screenshots and ledgers obtained from Strong’s computer were used in his trial as prosecutors detailed how he would watch Wright engaging in sexual relations with clients, from his Thomaston office, and how Strong and Wright would email client ledgers detailing clients and the acts performed back and forth.
But when he was shown screenshots and ledgers on the stand Monday, Strong, who was granted immunity by prosecutors, said he did not know if those were the same materials taken from his computer.
“I do not recall watching her have sexual relations. I do recall watching her on Skype,” Strong said in response to questions from Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon. “I had two computers on my desk, one I would do my work on and one I used possibly for Skype. You could press a button on Skype to have it routinely take pictures.”
When asked about the ledgers, Strong said he was asked by Wright to assist her in making an Excel spreadsheet, but had no other involvement in the document other than making changes for Wright when she asked. He could not recall what those changes were or why Wright asked him to make the change.
In cross-examination by Hill’s attorney Gary Prolman, Strong testified that he has had no relationship with Hill, never saw Wright or Hill together, and has not seen evidence of Hill paying Wright for sex, nor has he seen Wright take money from Hill.
Detective Fred Williams of the Saco Police Department also testified, telling prosecutors that he located the same ledger shown to Strong Monday on Strong’s computer in July.
Williams also said he recognized Hill as the same man identified in Skype screenshots obtained from Strong’s computer, engaging in sexual activity with Wright.
The trial will resume Tuesday morning with the cross-examination of Williams by Hill’s attorney.
Wright appeared on the stand first Monday, asked by prosecutors to identify Hill. She faced no questions from Prolman.
In Monday’s opening arguments, prosecutors argued that Hill solicited Wright’s services on Nov. 1, 2011, to be proven by an investigation by the Kennebunk Police Department that led to Skype screenshots retrieved from Strong’s computer, said Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan.
Prolman told the jury that prosecutors have to prove that Hill paid Wright in return for a sexual act. However, he told them the most that will be presented to them is photographs of Wright and Hill, two consenting adults, having sex.
They will not see audio or video evidence of Hill exchanging money with Wright in return for a sexual act, they will not see correspondence between the two via email to that end, and there will be no firsthand witnesses or a statement by Hill that he paid Wright for sex, Prolman said.
“This is sex between two consenting adults and that is not against the law,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, Justice Roland Cole decided that Strong would testify in Hill’s trial. Strong was granted immunity from the state, which Cole said he believed would also include any federal charges.
“I’m ordering him to testify over his claim of Fifth Amendment immunity,” Cole said.
After discussing Cole’s decision with his attorney, Susan Driscoll, of Bergen & Parkinson in Kennebunk, Strong said he would testify.
“I understand I’m being compelled to testify despite my Fifth Amendment rights, and it’s my understanding anything I say cannot be used by the state or federal government, then I will testify,” Strong said.
Last week, Cole ordered that Wright can exercise her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent if she is called to testify in Hill’s trial.
Whether Strong would testify is different than Wright’s testimony, Cole said, because Wright made a statement to investigators about her belief that she was working as a state operative. Prosecutors have said they did not believe the statement and Cole said Wright could be in danger of perjuring herself.
Strong made no such statements, the judge said.
Driscoll and Prolman, argued unsuccessfully on Monday that Strong could perjure himself by testifying, leading to potential charges related to extortion, wire fraud and IRS implications.
“I can’t even envision all of the ways he could be perjuring himself,” Driscoll said.
“The problem is once it’s done, it’s done,” Prolman said. “Once he does testify, the cat will be out of the bag, the horse will be out of the barn.”
The 14-member jury, including two alternates, was impaneled Monday morning and is made up of 11 women and three men.
Wright, 30, of Wells is currently serving a 10-month sentence in York County Jail after pleading guilty to 20 counts related to prostitution and tax-related offenses for running a prostitution operation out of her Kennebunk Zumba studio for more than a year and a half. Strong was found guilty of charges relating to promoting prostitution.
Of the 68 people charged with paying Wright for sex, more than 58 have pleaded guilty or no contest.
Hill resigned as the KHS hockey coach after 19 years in October 2012, with word coming from the district just hours after his arrest was first announced in as press release from the Kennebunk Police Department.
“Donald Hill was an assistant ice hockey coach at Kennebunk High School from 1993 to 1998, and the varsity hockey coach from 1998 to 2012,” said Regional School Unit 21 Superintendent Andrew Dolloff at the time. “He has stated that, for personal reasons, he is not seeking reappointment this year.”