Mark Strong is accused of helping a Zumba teacher from a small town run a prostitution ring, but he tells NBC's Katy Tur that even though he had an intimate relationship with teacher Alexis Wright, he never paid for sex or helped her promote prostitution.
The man accused of helping a Maine Zumba teacher run a prostitution ring from her dance studio said in an interview with the TODAY show that the two had an “intimate” but not a “love” relationship.
Jury selection began Tuesday morning at the York County Superior Courthouse in the case of Mark Strong, 57, an insurance agent who has also worked as a private investigator. Strong has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor counts of promotion of prostitution and violation of privacy.
Dance instructor Alexis Wright, 30, has pleaded not guilty to charges that include 45 counts of engaging in prostitution, violation of privacy, and conspiring to promote prostitution. Her trial is not expected to start until May.
Justice Nancy Mills and attorneys for Strong and the state quizzed the more than 140 potential jurors called into the courtroom on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. Potential jurors filled out a 10-page questionnaire and were questioned about their views on pornography, adultery and prostitution.
“You may be shown explicit videos and photographs depicting individuals engaged in graphic sexual acts,” the confidential juror questionnaire asked. “Would viewing this evidence make it difficult for you to listen to the law and evidence and render a fair and impartial verdict?”
The questionnaire also asks jurors if they know or are related to any of 72 potential witnesses who may be called in the course of what is expected to be a weeks-long trial.
In his interview with TODAY, Strong denied paying Wright for sex or helping her promote prostitution.
“I have been harassed. I received threatening phone calls, threatening my life,” Strong said in the TODAY interview.
“This is a long and laborious process, most of which is not public,” defense attorney Daniel Lilley said during a break in jury selection on Tuesday, according to the AP. One-third of the potential jury pool was dismissed Tuesday, and the selection process continued Wednesday.
Strong’s trial will commence as soon as jury selection is complete, Mary Ann Lynch, director of court information for the York County Superior Courthouse, said in an email to NBC News on Tuesday night.
The saga has kept the seaside town of Kennebunk, Maine, where Wright operated her dance and exercise studio, on edge.
“There’s still some of that puritanical New England left around,” Kennebunk store owner Will Bradford told the AP in October.
Court documents filed by Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan on Oct. 18 in the state’s superior court detail materials seized in the discovery process, including a number of computers, cameras and external hard drives.
Talks to strike a plea deal for Strong fell apart last week, the Boston Globe reported.