Police: Maine Zumba defendant deleted emails

AP News
Posted: Feb 25, 2013 10:14 PM

ALFRED, Maine (AP) — An insurance agent charged with promoting prostitution deleted all the email from his office computer a day after investigators raided his mistress' Zumba dance studio, office and home, a law enforcement computer expert testified Monday.

Frederick Williams of the Saco Police Department told jurors that he found spreadsheets, tax documents and snapshots from Skype video chats on defendant Mark Strong's computer and on computer equipment belonging to fitness instructor Alexis Wright, who's accused of using her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution.

Jurors weren't told of sexually explicit images on Strong's computer that prosecutors contend show he knew about the prostitution. The defense said showing the panel the more than 500 photos would be prejudicial.

"It's going to horrify some of these people to the point (Strong) is not going to be able to get a fair verdict," defense lawyer Daniel Lilley told the judge while the jury was out of earshot. He said it was a "stretch" to say possession of pornography meant Strong knew about prostitution.

On Tuesday, jurors were asked to report to duty several hours later than usual so Justice Nancy Mills and lawyers can discuss several motions and evidentiary issues.

One issue up for discussion was whether personnel records of Kennebunk police officers must be turned over to the defense, which intends to attack the integrity of the chief investigator.

Also up for discussion was Lilley's motion to dismiss all remaining counts because prosecutors have repeatedly missed deadlines for turning over documents.

Monday's testimony focused largely on 86 items seized from Strong's Thomaston home and business in July, months after police raided Wright's home, studio and office in Kennebunk on Valentine's Day.

Williams, the police computer expert, examined computers and hard drives, and said Strong deleted all his email before Feb. 15, 2012. He also was able to recover pornographic snapshots recovered from Skype video chats between Strong and Wright.

A state police detective also testified that 41 items — including much of the computer equipment and hard drives — remained in state police custody but that one hard drive was included in 45 items that were placed in the custody of Kennebunk police investigator Audra Presby.

The defense contends police targeted Strong, who held a private investigator's license, because he was looking into unprofessional conduct by Presby and other Kennebunk officers. The hard drive that ended up with Presby contained details of Strong's investigation, the defense says.

Strong helped Wright launch her Pura Vida dance-fitness studio by co-signing for her lease and loaning money with commercial notes that she repaid with interest. He contends he didn't know anything about allegations of prostitution.

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 and Wright have pleaded not guilty. Wright will be tried later for dozens of charges that include prostitution and tax violations.


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