Year in review

The major trials of 2012

By George Chappell | Jan 02, 2013

Rockland — Courier Publications covered four major judicial cases in 2012. Two of the trials took place at Knox County Superior Court, one at venues in Cumberland and York Superior Courts and one in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

On July 10, Thomaston insurance man Mark W. Strong Sr. was arrested on a warrant for the charge of promotion of prostitution. Strong posted $5,000 cash bail and the case was set for arraignment Sept. 5.

Since the time of Strong's arrest, Portland attorney Daniel G. Lilley has filed 16 motions in court for his client, including unsuccessful motions to dismiss.

Hearings have been held at York County Superior Court in Alfred and at Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland.

Strong, 57, is charged with promoting the prostitution of Alexis S. Wright, a 29-year-old  Zumba fitness instructor, who is accused of engaging in prostitution in her dance studio in Kennebunk.

Justice Nancy Mills has put Strong’s case on the January trial list while dance instructor Alexis Wright will be tried later in May.

Strong has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor counts of promotion of prostitution and violation of privacy. Wright has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts, including prostitution, invasion of privacy and income tax evasion.

Meanwhile, the Kennebunk Police Department, which conducted the investigation against Wright and Strong for more than a year, has been releasing names of johns, or prostitution clients.The list is up to 65, including four men who pleaded guilty to engaging a prostitute.

In two court cases at Knox County Superior Court in 2012, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm presided over the Arnold Diana murder trial, and Justice William S. Brodrick over the Dennis Dechaine drug trial.

On June 19, convicted killer Dennis Dechaine appeared before Justice William S. Brodrick in Knox County Superior Court on reduced felony drug charges. The court allowed him to plead no contest to a misdemeanor. He was given a three-month non-concurrent sentence and fined $400.

“He authorized me to make that offer,” Dechaine’s defense attorney Steven C. Peterson of Rockport said just before the hearing.

Dechaine is already serving a life sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren, having been convicted of killing Sarah Cherry, 12, of Bowdoinham in 1988.

In April 2010 Dechaine took prescription drugs morphine and Klonopine and was transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he stayed for two weeks. When he returned to prison, he was placed on a suicide watch for a while, according to testimony at the hearing.

The state charged Dechaine with drug trafficking and unlawful possession of scheduled drugs.

A jury selection had been held June 8 at Knox County Superior Court at which 12 jurors and two alternates were picked to consider the charges of drug trafficking in prison contraband and possession of unlawful drugs. The jury had planned to come to court Tuesday prepared for a trial on the drug charges. Instead, court officials worked out the misdemeanor agreement and the jury did not meet.

Dechaine is also involved in a trial in Cumberland County in which he is trying to have the state consider DNA evidence that he hoped would lead to overturning his murder charge. It will be the fifth time Dechaine has tried to prove his innocence.

Brodrick imposed a three-month non-concurrent sentence, which means that the life sentence will be suspended for three months and bumped ahead to allow for the misdemeanor.

In a murder case that heard 10 days of testimony, Arnold Diana of Rockland was sentenced Oct. 12 in Knox County Superior Court to serve 45 years in prison for the November 2010 murder of Katrina Windred, 47, in Rockland.

Attorney Christopher MacLean filed on appeal on behalf of Diana in late November, challenging the sentence imposed.

During the sentencing part of the trial, Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm set the basic period of incarceration at 40 years, according to the affidavit. Hjelm relied on a 2010 case, State v. Waterman, in which the earlier court considered as part of its basic sentence analysis that the defendant placed his three children in danger by having them in his car at the time of the shooting.

MacLean argued that the sentence should be closer to 25 years.

The U.S. District Court in Bangor on Sept. 24 indicted Rodney Russell, 48, of South Thomaston as one of four men and a West Enfield timber company for growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel B. Casey, the prosecutor in the case, charges stem from a raid on a growing operation in Penobscot and Washington counties in 2009.

On Sept. 23, U.S. Marshals arrested Russell and co-defendants Malcolm A. French, Robert Berg, and Kendall Chase.

Russell and other defendants were arraigned for an initial appearance on Sept. 24 before Magistrate Judge Margaret J. Kravchuk, who set bail at $10,000 unsecured, according to court records.

Russell faces nine felony counts, including a conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants, manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants, two counts of using and maintaining drug-involved premises at two locations in Washington County, aiding and abetting, and three counts of harboring illegal aliens, according to Casey.

If convicted, Russell faces from 10 years to life, a $10 million fine, or both, for the marijuana charge, up to 20 years and $500,000, or both, for the drug-related premise charge, and up to five years to life and $500,000, or both, for the harboring charge, according to court records.

A trial has been set for March 2013 in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Russell is being represented by attorney Steven Peterson of West Rockport.

Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or at




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