Future of prostitution case unclear as Supreme Court considers appeal
Alfred — As the week drew to a close the question of "where do we go from here?" was uncertain in the court case of Mark Strong, Sr., 57, of Thomaston.
The high-profile promotion of prostitution trial for Strong was set to begin this past week, but has been bogged down in jury selection, pre-trial motions and appeals to the Maine Supreme Court.
Strong faced 59 misdemeanor counts accusing him of invasion of privacy, conspiracy, and promoting prostitution.
The Superior Court on Jan. 25 dismissed 46 counts dealing with invasion of privacy, according to court filings, finding those engaged in soliciting a prostitute had no reasonable grounds to expect privacy in the places where this is alleged to have occurred. The state promptly appealed this motion to the state's highest court.
Strong, through his attorney Daniel Lilley, has filed a motion to dismiss the state's appeal and expedite the decision.
"... the State now attempts to derail the trial of appellee Strong in a futile and transparent attempt to rebuild a very weak case," Lilley wrote. "This latest move by the State is abusive and harassing to appellee Strong, who has consistently and forcefully asserted his right to speedy trial before an impartial jury."
Justice Nancy Mills' decision to dismiss the charges hinged on the wording of Maine Criminal Code: "'Private place' means a place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from surveillance, including, but not limited to, changing or dressing rooms, bathrooms and similar places."
According to York County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon, accused prostitute Alexis Wright used three sites for her prostitution activities: a residence, the Zumba studio, and a two-room business suite.
Lilley said people engaged in the act of soliciting a prostitute cannot reasonably expect privacy during their illicit activities.
Lilley now seems to feel the State is trying to stall the case while the appeal is considered by the higher court. He argues the court was able to come to a decision very quickly earlier this week when Maine Today Media, Inc. filed an appeal of orders to keep the press out of the jury selection.
"This court granted Maine Today Media, Inc.'s request earlier this week to hear their appeal of other orders in this case on an expedited basis, announcing its decision less than 24 hours after the notice of appeal was filed in that case," Lilley argued. "The Constitutional rights of appellee Strong are of no lesser importance than those of the media in this case: every minute, every hour, every day that goes by with a juror pool sitting idly, denies appellee Strong the rights to which he is entitled and which he has asserted forcefully throughout these torturous proceedings."
Bane Okholm contributed to this report.