Zumba Prostitution Scandal: Maine judge to resume jury selection in prostitution case

Mark Strong Sr. appearing in court.
CBS This Morning
Mark Strong, Sr.
CBS News

(CBS/AP) ALFRED, Maine - A Maine judge said she wants to resume jury selection as early as Wednesday in the trial of Mark Strong Sr., the alleged business partner of a fitness instructor accused of using her Zumba studio as a front for prostitution.

Pictures: Zumba instructor accused of prostitution

Justice Nancy Mills convened attorneys for 57-year-old Strong and dance instructor Alexis Wright on Tuesday to address several matters, including prosecutors' suggestion that a possible conflict of interest may interfere in the trial.

There was no formal motion for Mills to step aside, but she discussed concerns of a potential conflict because her sister-in-law, Janet Mills, is Maine's attorney general and her husband's law firm once represented a police investigator who's expected to testify in Strong's trial.

She said neither instance rises to the level of creating a problem.

"I can act with complete impartiality in this matter," she said.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers supported her decision.

Jury selection was on hold for more than three weeks in Strong's trial after a judge dismissed 46 counts  of violation of privacy of prostitution clients who were videotaped without their knowledge. The married insurance business owner still faces 13 other counts dealing with promotion of prostitution.

Both Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty. Wright is due to be tried at a later date.

Strong said he helped Wright launch her Pura Vida dance-fitness studio in Kennebunk by co-signing for her lease and loaning money that was repaid. He said he didn't know about allegations of prostitution.

The case generated international attention because of the small-town location and the scope of the alleged operation. A lawyer who has seen the client list reportedly said it totals more than 150, including some prominent names.

Mills tried to tamp down on pre-trial publicity, telling attorneys not to talk to reporters during the jury selection process. Strong's lawyer asked her to lift the gag order on Tuesday, citing First Amendment issues. Mills rejected his request, saying her order will be lifted once the jury is seated.

The judge also ruled that the defense cannot call two chief prosecutors to testify. The defense contended that Strong was subjected to selective and overzealous prosecution.

Complete coverage of the Zumba Prostitution Scandal on Crimesider