POSTED: 12:28 p.m. HST, Feb 28, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 12:35 p.m. HST, Feb 28, 2013
ALFRED, Maine » The jury in the trial of an insurance agent charged with promoting prostitution watched a 45-minute video today showing a sexual encounter between a Zumba fitness instructor and a man who left cash on her massage table.
Jurors also viewed video chats indicating defendant Mark Strong Sr. was familiar with the sexual encounters featuring his mistress, Alexis Wright, in Kennebunk while he watched via Skype from his office 100 miles away in Thomaston.
Prosecutors have more than 150 videos but showed jurors only a single 45-minute recording that depicted Wright making chitchat with an older man who arrived and immediately began undressing. After their sexual encounter, she used disposable wipes to clean up, escorted the man to the door and then spoke to another man, believed to be Strong, at the other end of the Skype chat.
Police computer expert Frederick Williams told jurors the video was recovered from a device belonging to Wright and that Strong's computer had 45 snapshots made from the same encounter.
Defense lawyer Daniel Lilley said the evidence showed his client was aware of paid sex, but he contended a crime was not committed because Strong neither recruited clients nor profited from the operation.
"Observing a person in a criminal act is not a criminal act itself," Lilley told reporters today, adding that Strong was embarrassed to have his wife in court to hear testimony of his affair.
Strong, 57, of Thomaston, faces 13 counts that relate to promoting prostitution. A judge previously dismissed 46 counts of invasion of privacy over prostitution clients who were said to have been videotaped without their knowledge.
Williams told jurors today how he recovered a ledger from Wright's computer that described sexual encounters in entries from Oct. 5, 2010, through Feb. 13, 2012, the day before police raided her office and studio in Kennebunk and her home in Wells.
He also found a key that described a variety of sexual acts, and those matched with the sex acts — and a $250 payment — with the alleged client shown on the video seen by jurors. One ledger entry showed a payment of $500 for a sexual encounter, Williams said.
The video chats showed a routine in which Wright and Strong chatted via Skype before and after sexual encounters, discussing scheduling and birth control, among other topics. Wright provided license plate numbers to Strong, who also was a private investigator.
Before each of the encounters, Wright took a moment to ensure the video camera was hidden. "OK, here we go. I'm locking my screen," she told Strong on one video call.
On another video, she talked about scheduling conflicts, saying she had time for two one-hour sexual encounters while the man believed to be Strong suggested she could make time for three 45-minute sessions. "Maybe, but I'd be pushing it," she said.
Strong contends he had an affair with 30-year-old Wright and helped her launch her Pura Vida dance studio in Kennebunk but didn't promote prostitution. Prosecutors contended the videos proved he was familiar with the details of Wright's business.
Jurors showed little reaction as they watched the 45-minute sexually explicit video on a large screen. One looked away during parts of it, one fiddled with an eyeglass case, another twiddled his thumbs and several stole glances at a clock.
On the video, Wright talked to the man about his business and his dogs. She politely rebuffed him when he said he'd like to spend more time with her. "I have new classes starting today and I have to run errands. Next time you'll have to not wait until the last minute to call me," she said.
After the man dressed, he asked, "How much is the rate now?"
She responded that it was $250 for 45 minutes.
The lead investigator, officer Audra Prebsy, testified briefly late this afternoon, and she's due to return to the witness stand on Friday.
The prostitution scandal attracted international attention last fall 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.