Attorneys clash over term 'pimp' in Zumba trial

DAVID SHARP Associated Press Published:

ALFRED, Maine (AP) -- The defense and prosecutors are arguing over reference to a "pimp" in the trial of a Maine man charged with helping a fitness instructor use a Zumba studio as a front for prostitution.

An officer testified Friday that she thought there was a "pimp" controlling the operation and making money from it.

The defense contends Mark Strong Sr. never profited from the dance instructor's actions in Kennebunk. And a lawyer for Strong asked the officer why she concluded that the instructor had a "pimp."

The prosecutor then shouted: "Objection, objection, objection!" when the defense tried to continue the line of questioning.

Strong, who's from Thomaston, Maine, is on trial on 13 charges related to promotion of prostitution. The instructor, Alexis Wright, will be tried later.

Testimony continues Monday.

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

A Zumba instructor accused of prostitution had $1,000 cash, a badge and state identification as an assistant investigator in her possession, according to testimony Friday by a police officer testifying in the trial of an insurance agent connected to the case.

Lawyers for Mark Strong say instructor Alexis Wright studied under Strong to become a private investigator. But a state police spokesman said Friday that licensed private investigators aren't allowed to carry badges.

There were no details on the badge, which was found in Wright's office along with the ID. Other items seized from Wright's office, studio, home and SUV included the cash, computers, hard drives, condoms, baby oil and personal lubricants, said Audra Presby, the lead investigator.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, is on trial on 13 counts related to promotion of prostitution. Wright will be tried later.

Videos showed for jurors Thursday indicated Strong watched live video feeds from his Thomaston insurance office as Wright engaged in sexual encounters in which money changed hands 100 miles away in Kennebunk.

The defense contends Strong was unfairly targeted because he was investigating alleged unprofessional conduct by Presby, who was reprimanded for having an affair with her boss, and other officers in the Kennebunk Police Department.

The defense contends Presby took a hard drive that allegedly contained Strong's findings to the Kennebunk Police Department, despite an understanding that computer devices seized from his home and business would be under control of state police.

The defense cross-examination of Presby was expected to last throughout the afternoon on Friday.

The prostitution scandal in the seaside community of Kennebunk attracted attention last fall after it was reported that Wright's ledgers indicated she made $150,000 over 18 months.

Strong's attorneys contend he had an affair with 30-year-old Wright and helped finance her Pura Vida dance studio but that no crime was committed because he didn't recruit clients and didn't profit from the operation.

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