High court agrees to throw out privacy invasion counts in prostitution case
Portland — The Maine Supreme Court has upheld Justice Nancy Mills' Jan. 22 decision to dismiss 46 counts of invasion of privacy against Mark W. Strong Sr. of Thomaston.
Thirteen counts of promotion of prostitution still stand.
Last fall Strong was indicted on 59 counts of promotion of prostitution, invasion of privacy, and conspiracy. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On the first day of jury selection Jan. 22., Strong's attorney Daniel Lilley of Portland moved to dismiss the 46 counts of invasion of privacy, arguing those engaged in a criminal activity, such as soliciting a prostitute, are not entitled to privacy. Additionally, the place where the criminal act occurs should not be considered a "private place."
The state countered the motion was untimely and that the statute protects the victim, whether they are involved in illegal acts or not. The state subsequently filed an appeal when the motion to reconsider the dismissal was not granted.
Maine Supreme Court documents said the court's dismissal of the 46 counts "present a reasonable likelihood that the state's prosecution of Strong has been seriously impaired," because the dropped charges are the majority of the counts brought against him.
The documents said the state could not prove the alleged crimes, providing no specific information such as a description of the places, and failed to prove the places are where people "may reasonably expect to be safe from surveillance, including, but not limited to, changing or dressing rooms, bathrooms and similar places."
The word reasonably is emphasized in the legislative explanation.
The state contended a private place extends to anywhere a person disrobes, regardless of whether the person is involved in criminal conduct at the time.
As the statute is "reasonably susceptible" to more than one interpretation, the court turned to its legislative history for guidance.
Although the interpretation is subjective, the court saw that "places of prostitution and people who knowingly frequent them to engage in a prostitute are not sanctioned by society."
Accordingly, court documents state, "it is objectively unreasonable" for a person seeing a prostitute to "expect society recognizes a right to be safe from surveillance while inside."
Accused co-conspirator Alexis Wright, 30, of Wells was indicted by the York County grand jury on 106 counts, including charges of engaging in prostitution, violation of privacy, and tax evasion.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext.118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.