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Maine judge won't dismiss charges in Zumba trial

Tuesday - 2/26/2013, 12:51pm  ET

DAVID SHARP
Associated Press

ALFRED, Maine (AP) -- A judge has refused to throw out 13 remaining counts in the trial of an insurance agent who's accused of helping a fitness instructor use her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution in Maine.

Lawyers for defendant Mark Strong Sr. said prosecutors have repeatedly missed deadlines for handing over materials. More than 100 pages of police reports and notes, videos and tape recordings were provided to the defense on Tuesday, the fourth day of testimony.

Defense lawyer Tina Nadeau urged the judge to punish prosecutors by dismissing charges. But Justice Nancy Mills says there are other remedies, including delaying testimony to give the defense more time to review the material.

Both Strong and dance instructor Alexis Wright have pleaded not guilty. Wright will be tried later.

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

The judge in the trial of an insurance agent accused of helping a fitness instructor use her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution is giving jurors a respite from testimony to address several motions, including a request to toss the remaining 13 counts.

Justice Nancy Mills must decide whether the defendant's rights trump a state law that bars release of investigators' personnel files, and she must decide how much porn jurors will see.

There's also a motion to dismiss remaining counts against Mark Strong Sr., whose lawyer have accused prosecutors of missing deadlines for turning over discovery documents in the high-profile case.

Those issues were to be discussed Tuesday morning.

Testimony on Monday focused largely on 86 items seized from Strong's Thomaston home and business in July, about five months after police raided Wright's home, studio and office in Kennebunk on Valentine's Day last year.

Saco Police Detective Frederick Williams, who reviewed seized hard drives, said Strong deleted all the email from his office computer on Feb. 15, 2012, a day after investigators raided Wrights studio, office and home.

He also said he found spreadsheets, tax documents and snapshots from Skype video chats on Strong's computer and on computer equipment belonging to fitness instructor Alex Wright, who's accused of using her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution.

Jurors weren't told of sexually explicit images on Strong's computer that prosecutors contend show he knew about the prostitution. The defense said showing the panel the more than 500 photos would be prejudicial.

"It's going to horrify some of these people to the point (Strong) is not going to be able to get a fair verdict," defense lawyer Daniel Lilley told the judge while the jury was out of earshot.

The prostitution scandal attracted international attention after it was reported that Wright had ledgers indicating she made $150,000 over 18 months and had more than 150 clients, some of them prominent.

Both Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty. Wright will be tried later for dozens of charges that include prostitution and tax violations.

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Follow David Sharp at http://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP


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