Sexually explicit material a yawner for some jurors in Zumba trial
By DAVID SHARP Associated Press February 27, 2013 3:14PM
Updated: February 27, 2013 3:15PM
ALFRED, Maine (AP) — Jurors in the trial of a Maine man accused of helping a fitness instructor use her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution showed little reaction while viewing sexually explicit photos and a videotape.
Prosecutors on Wednesday introduced about 100 photos and showed more than two dozen of them to jurors, who quickly and nonchalantly looked at them. One even yawned in between photos.
A separate video showed the instructor nude in her Kennebunk studio while men outside watched.
Defendant Mark Strong contends he helped Alexis Wright open the studio but knew nothing about prostitution. Prosecutors say the photos taken during live Skype sessions between the two showed money changing hands, proving he was aware of prostitution.
Both Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty. She’ll be tried later.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Jurors in the trial of an insurance agent accused of helping a Zumba fitness instructor run a prostitution business reviewed hundreds of emails and text messages between the pair on Wednesday while the judge and attorneys clashed over how many sexually explicit images will be admitted as evidence.
Justice Nancy Mills said she was allowing prosecutors to show jurors in the trial of Mark Strong Sr. some images — but not all 577 pictures — depicting Zumba dance-fitness instructor Alexis Wright having sex with alleged prostitution clients. All told, the judge said more than 13,000 images were recovered from Strong’s computer.
Strong, who faces 13 counts related to promotion of prostitution, allegedly made the photos from live Skype sessions in which Wright engaged in prostitution with clients who didn’t know they were being recorded.
Defense lawyer Dan Lilley told the judge that subjecting jurors to massive amounts of pornography was overkill and that “the cumulative effect could be prejudicial.”
With jurors reviewing texts and emails behind closed doors, lawyers became increasingly testy as they debated the photos. “This isn’t helping,” the judge warned.
Exasperated by the delays and bickering, the judge stormed out of the courtroom at one point to take care of some clerical work because evidence submitted by prosecutors mistakenly included the name of an accused prostitution client who hadn’t been convicted. She closed the door firmly behind her.
The trial has been marked by delays, and the judge is trying to move the case along.
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.
Strong contends he helped Wright launch her Pura Vida dance studio in Kennebunk but was unaware of any paid sex.
Prosecutors say Strong watched the sex sessions live from his insurance office 100 miles away in Thomaston and that his photos showed money changing hands, making it clear he knew it was prostitution.