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Judge must open jury selection in Maine Zumba case

ALFRED, Maine — The remain­ing jury selection must be open to the public in the trial of the first major figure in a prostitution scandal centered on a Zumba studio in ­Kennebunk, Maine’s highest court ruled Thursday.

Remaining members of the jury pool were sent home after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court stopped the process in response to a request by the parent company of The Portland Press Herald. In a 6-to-1 ruling, the state Supreme Court later ordered the remainder of the process in York County Superior Court to be opened to the public.

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No jurors had been seated out of the original pool of 140.

Mark Strong Sr., 57, of Thomaston, faces 59 mis­demeanor counts including conspiring with dance instructor Alexis Wright, who is accused of using her Kennebunk fitness studio as a front for prostitution.

Justice Nancy Mills had been conducting questioning of potential jurors behind closed doors ­because of potentially embarrassing questions focusing on views on sex acts, pornography, and prostitution.

But the high court said that was not reason enough to close the proceedings.

With potential jurors sent home, the judge weighed several pretrial motions, including one asking the judge to dismiss 47 of the counts related to invasion of privacy of accused prostitution clients who were allegedly videotaped without their knowledge.

Defense lawyer Daniel Lilley told the judge people ­engaged in criminal activity have no right to privacy under a state law aimed at protecting privacy of people in restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms.

‘‘The statute doesn’t protect criminals and make criminals victims,’’ Lilley said, saying the charges would make Maine ‘‘the laughingstock of jurisprudence.’’

Mills did not immediately rule on the motion.

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