Zumba jury sees sexually explicit images in Maine
ALFRED, Maine (AP) — The jury in the trial of an insurance agent accused of helping a Zumba instructor use her dance-fitness studio as a front for prostitution viewed more than two dozen sexually explicit photos and a video that showed the instructor performing a striptease.
But the jurors showed little reaction to the images Wednesday. One of them even yawned in between photos.
The judge allowed prosecutors in the trial of Mark Strong Sr. to introduce about 100 images — but not all 577 pictures the government wanted to show — depicting instructor Alexis Wright having sex with alleged prostitution clients. All told, more than 13,000 of the images were recovered from Strong’s computer.
Strong faces 13 counts related to promotion of prostitution. Prosecutors said he made the screen-grab snapshots from live Skype sessions he had with Wright while she engaged in sex for money.
Jurors quickly and nonchalantly looked at some of the photos, which were passed around for them to see. They also watched a video taken from Wright’s possession in which she stood inside her studio in front of the windows and dropped a towel, revealing to men across the street that she was naked.
The photos and videos were subject of a dispute between prosecutors and defense lawyer Dan Lilley, who told the judge that subjecting jurors to massive amounts of pornography was overkill and that “the cumulative effect could be prejudicial.” The judge ultimately allowed the smaller number of photos and videos.
Strong, 57, of Thomaston, contends he had an affair with 30-year-old Wright and helped her launch her Pura Vida dance studio in Kennebunk but that he was unaware of any paid sex.
Prosecutors say the sex sessions that Strong watched from his insurance office 100 miles away in Thomaston proved he knew about prostitution because they showed money exchanging hands.
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.
The trial has been marked by delays, and the judge is trying to move the case along.
Frustrations showed on Wednesday. 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.
Strong faces 12 counts of promoting prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution. Forty-six other counts accusing him of violating the privacy of accused prostitution clients by watching streamed video of them without their knowledge were dismissed by the judge.
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