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Prosecutors in Kennebunk Zumba prostitution trial may have to cover $23,000 in defendant’s legal fees

Gregory Rec | Pool/PPH
Gregory Rec | Pool/PPH
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon adresses questions posed by justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court during oral arguments on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.

PORTLAND, Maine — Prosecutors in the first of two major trials in the now-famous Kennebunk prostitution case may be forced to pay nearly $23,000 to cover legal fees of the man they’re prosecuting.

Defense attorneys representing Mark Strong Sr., a Thomaston businessman accused of helping run a prostitution business alongside Kennebunk fitness instructor Alexis Wright, filed an application electronically Sunday to compel the state to cover some of Strong’s legal costs.

Wright faces a separate trial scheduled to begin later this spring.

Daniel Lilley, representing Strong, requested to withdraw from the case before jury selection began in January because he said his client could no longer afford to pay him. Lilley said Strong’s reputation and insurance business suffered due to the publicity associated with the prostitution scandal, and that he went broke fighting the charges.

Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills denied Lilley’s request to withdraw, however, and the attorney was stuck with the case despite Strong’s inability to pay.

Now, Lilley and co-counsel Tina Nadeau are seeking to force the state to cover the $22,924.33 in legal bills Strong would owe for extra work his team conducted to fight a state appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

On Jan. 25, Mills granted a defense motion to throw out 46 privacy invasion charges against Strong, leaving only 13 promotion of prostitution-related charges for trial. Prosecutors for the state — the York County district attorney’s office and the Maine attorney general’s office — immediately appealed the sweeping dismissal, tying the case up at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for an additional three-plus weeks.

The prosecutors lost their appeal, however, and defense attorneys want the ordeal to cost them more than just the 46 disputed charges.

In its application to recoup the legal costs associated with the appeal, the defense team states that Lilley spent 38 hours, worth a total of $14,250, on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court excursion. Nadeau is listed as spending 42.5 hours on the appeal at a lesser per-hour fee, totaling $8,075 in legal fees. Another attorney at the firm contributed $500 in billable time to the appeal, and the team added $99.33 in printing and binding costs.

“When an appeal is taken by the state, the law court shall allow the defendant reasonable counsel fees and costs for the defense of the appeal,” Lilley’s application reads, in part. “Neither the statute nor the rule requires that the defendant have prevailed on the appeal to recover fees and costs.

“The fees incurred were reasonable and necessary to the effective and successful defense of the state’s appeal,” the application continues, in part.

Lilley noted that the defense team’s legal costs could have been greater in the appeal, but passed on an opportunity to file a second brief to augment its first.

The defense team cannot also force the state to cover legal fees associated with the ongoing trial taking place at the Superior Court level. That trial began with opening arguments on Feb. 20, and continues Monday with ongoing cross-examination of Kennebunk police Patrol Officer Audra Presby.

The prostitution case has attracted global media attention, in part, because of a client list allegedly kept by Wright naming more than 150 individuals who paid for sex, including a number of prominent local men. Nearly 70 people have been charged with engaging a prostitute in the case.

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