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Jury selection begins in Zumba prostitution case

Mark Strong, right, and his lawyer, Dan Lilley, entered York County Superior Court on Tuesday. They are working on selecting jurors for Strong’s trial in a prostitution case.

Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald VIA Associated Press

Mark Strong, right, and his lawyer, Dan Lilley, entered York County Superior Court on Tuesday. They are working on selecting jurors for Strong’s trial in a prostitution case.

ALFRED, Maine — The process of finding a jury untainted by coverage of a prostitution scandal got underway Tuesday in the trial of the business partner of a Zumba instructor accused of using her dance studio as a front for prostitution.

More than 140 potential jurors were called into the courtroom to fill out questionnaires before being dismissed in the trial of Mark Strong Sr., who faces 59 misdemeanor counts including conspiring with Zumba instructor Alexis Wright.

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Defense lawyer Dan Lilley said most of the questioning of potential jurors would be done privately in judge’s chambers.

‘‘This is a long and laborious process, most of which is not public,’’ he said.

Lawyers said it could take a couple of days to select a jury. A judge previously rejected a defense motion to move the trial because of pretrial publicity.

Justice Nancy Mills will be hard-pressed to find jurors who know nothing about the case.

Celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos, whose clients have included Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson said cases like this one cause problems for judges.

Both Strong and Wright have pleaded not guilty.

Strong, 57, has said he helped Wright launch her Pura Vida dance-fitness studio in Kennebunk by cosigning for her lease and loaning money that was repaid with interest.

He acknowledged having a physical relationship with Wright but said he never paid her for sex. He denied engaging in any criminal conduct.

Wright will be tried at a later date. She faces 106 counts including prostitution .

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