ALFRED, Maine (AP) — Jury selection resumed in the trial of a man accused of helping a Zumba fitness instructor run a prostitution business, and members of the jury pool faced questions about their views on prostitution and their knowledge of the case.
More than 50 potential jurors gathered in court Wednesday morning in the trial of married insurance businessman Mark Strong Sr.
One man questioned individually said he owned a business in Kennebunk, where the Zumba studio is located. He said one of his business clients was reported in the media to be one of the prostitution clients but said he didn’t know the man personally.
The man also said he believes prostitution should be legal, but added he could follow the law and be impartial. Both the defense and the prosecutor asked that he be removed from consideration.
During questioning, 12 potential jurors told Justice Nancy Mills that they had heard or seen news coverage or overheard conversations from family members or co-workers about the case. All were questioned individually.
One woman drew laughter when she said, “My grandma knows I’m here and won’t stop talking about it.”
Mills said, to more laughter, “I’d hate to see grandma go to jail.”
Jury selection had stalled for more than three weeks after prosecutors appealed the dismissal of 46 invasion-of-privacy counts against Strong, who’s from Thomaston. He still faces 13 other counts dealing with promotion of prostitution.
Strong and fitness instructor Alexis Wright, who ran the Zumba studio, have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Wright engaged in prostitution in the dance studio. She’ll be tried later.
Mills has gone to great lengths to seat a jury despite intense news overage generated by the scandal in Kennebunk, a town of about 10,000 residents known for its ocean beaches and old mansions. More than 140 potential jurors were called for the case, and each of them had to fill out a questionnaire.
The case has generated national and international headlines because of its location in a quiet seaside hamlet next to Kennebunkport, home of the Bush family’s Walker’s Point summer compound, and the scale of the prostitution alleged by prosecutors.
Police have said more than 150 people are suspected of being clients and many of them were videotaped without their knowledge. A lawyer who has seen a client list says it includes some prominent names. Those who’ve been charged include a former mayor, a high school hockey coach, a minister, a lawyer and a firefighter.
Strong said he helped Wright launch her Pura Vida dance-fitness studio by co-signing for her lease and loaning money that was repaid in full. He said he didn’t know about allegations of prostitution.
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