Maine Zumba trial on hold pending appeal decision

Updated at: 01/29/2013 3:07 PM
By DAVID SHARP

(AP) ALFRED, Maine - Maine’s highest court has agreed to an expedited hearing focusing on 46 counts that were dropped against a key figure in a prostitution scandal centered at a Zumba dance studio in the seaside town of Kennebunk.

A judge on Tuesday delayed the trial of Mark Strong Sr. to allow the supreme court to rule on an appeal of her dismissal of 46 out of 59 misdemeanor counts.

The dismissed charges deal with invasion of privacy of prostitution clients who were allegedly videotaped without their knowledge during sexual encounters.

Strong’s lawyers wanted to continue with a trial on the remaining 13 counts.

The supreme court ordered briefs to be submitted before oral arguments on Feb. 13.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A judge on Tuesday delayed the trial of a key figure in a prostitution scandal centered at a Zumba dance studio in Maine, telling lawyers that the state supreme court must rule on her decision to dismiss 46 counts before the trial can proceed.

Defense lawyers wanted the judge to try Mark Strong Sr. on the remaining 13 counts, but Justice Nancy Mills said the high court ruling is necessary to avoid the possibility of two separate trials, should the counts be reinstated.

Jury selection remained in limbo.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, was originally charged with 59 misdemeanor counts including conspiring with Alexis Wright, who’s accused of using her Kennebunk dance studio as a prostitution front.

Prosecutors say prostitution clients were videotaped without their knowledge, and the dismissed charges related to invasion of privacy. The remaining 13 counts focused on promotion of prostitution.

Both Strong and Wright pleaded not guilty. She will be tried at a later date.

The jury selection process moved in fits and starts with a pool of more than 140 potential jurors reporting to court a week ago. But a pair of appeals to the state supreme court, one focusing on the closed-door selection process, left the potential jurors spinning their wheels for days on end.

Defense lawyer Dan Lilley repeated his assertion that his client has a right to a speedy trial and that prosecutors’ decision to appeal the privacy counts’ dismissal was frivolous.

But Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan said the various charges are interconnected, requiring the same witnesses to testify to all of them.

The judge ultimately ruled that trial had to stop until the supreme court rules on the issue of privacy violations. Members of the jury pool remain on duty until March 1, so they could be recalled if the state supreme court rules before then.

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