Cross-Examination of Police Officer Gets Heated in Kennebunk Zumba Prostitution Trial
Koenig, Seth, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)
ALFRED, Maine -- Prosecutors in the first of two major trials in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case blunted defense efforts to pursue contentions of police retaliation Friday, loudly objecting to several questions directed at the top local investigator in the case.
The objections triggered sharp exchanges between attorneys in the trial, and ratcheted up tension in the courtroom, but largely succeeded in derailing talk of defendant Mark Strong Sr.'s alleged investigation into past misconduct by members of the Kennebunk police department.
Strong, a Thomaston insurance broker and part-time private investigator, faces 12 counts of promotion of prostitution and one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution for his role in an alleged prostitution business run by fitness instructor Alexis Wright from her Kennebunk Zumba studio.
Wright faces a separate trial scheduled to begin this spring.
Patrol Officer Audra Presby, who led the local investigation into the alleged prostitution business, took the witness stand for the first time Thursday afternoon for what has been perhaps the most highly anticipated testimony of the trial.
Presby returned to the stand on Friday for continued questioning. Strong and his attorney, Daniel Lilley, have in the past argued that Presby focused her investigation on the Thomaston man unfairly as payback for research he had been doing into alleged past misconduct on her part.
But Lilley was not able to directly question Presby on the the topic Friday. York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan objected repeatedly -- and increasingly loudly -- as Lilley attempted several times to ask Presby if she had been told about Strong's alleged research into her past.
On one occasion, McGettigan shouted "objection" three times over Lilley's ongoing question before the defense attorney stopped to await Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills' ruling on the interruption.
"Let's just keep it down," Lilley responded to the prosecutor. "You don't have to have volume. I can hear you."
"Well, you keep asking the same question," McGettigan shot back.
McGettigan's objections were largely sustained by Mills, who agreed that Presby's testimony on what another person may have told her about Strong's ongoing investigation would legally qualify as hearsay and be inadmissible in court.
During a brief session with attorneys before the jury returned to the courtroom from its midday lunch break, Mills told Lilley that, even though she had ruled in an earlier pretrial motion he would be allowed to pursue the police retaliation argument, he would need to produce evidence to support the angle.
"I want an offer of proof of admissible evidence that this defendant was conducting an investigation," Mills told Lilley before the afternoon session got under way.
Lilley showed the judge a printout of an email Strong allegedly sent the Kennebunk Police Department in early 2012 alerting the force that he was doing the research, a correspondence that took place before Strong was included as a suspect in the investigation.
Strong has long maintained that he was investigating alleged misconduct by members of the Kennebunk Police Department, most significantly Presby, at the time of his July 2012 arrest. Strong has argued he was researching Presby's 2009 affair with her married then-supervisor Nicholas Higgins, as well as subsequent allegations by Higgins' former wife that Presby had inappropriate sexual contact with the former couple's 5-year-old child. …