PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An insurance agent who helped run a prostitution operation out of his mistress’s Zumba studio and watched sex videos made with a hidden camera will serve 20 days in jail for a scandal that rocked a seaside community better known for its beaches and sea captains’ homes than for crime.
Mark Strong Sr. told the judge Thursday that he was sorry for the pain he caused his family, and his wife broke down in sobs during a plea for leniency.
“I do apologize for each of my selfish actions and the harm that I have caused many. Most importantly I want to apologize to my wife, my two sons and my entire family because I’ve caused so much hurt in so many ways, emotionally, physically and financially,” Strong said, his voice choking.
Prosecutors say Strong controlled every facet of the Kennebunk operation, monitoring fitness instructor Alexis Wright’s calendar, reviewing her ledgers, collecting dossiers on clients and watching the sexual encounters streamed live to the computer in his office 100 miles up the coast in Thomaston.
Strong also suggested boosting profits by marketing to higher-paying fetish clients and engaging in paid sex acts with multiple men simultaneously, prosecutors said.
“This was not a man in love. This was not a voyeur. This was hard-nosed businessman,” said Deputy York County District Attorney Justina McGettigan, who asked the judge to sentence Strong to 364 days in jail, noting that the prostitution continued even after police raided Wright’s studio, office and apartment in Kennebunk.
Defense lawyer Dan Lilley asked for a maximum of 14 days in jail, telling the judge that police and prosecutors were overzealous in an investigation that fizzled with only two defendants and mostly minor charges.
“The state wanted Moby Dick but got fish bait. This is relatively minor case that has become, or did become, a media event. The simple fact is that the media … has already punished Mark Strong,” Lilley said.
Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills imposed a 20-day sentence on the first count of promotion of prostitution and concurrent sentences on the remaining 12 misdemeanor counts. She also imposed $3,000 in fines.
Twenty days in jail may not seem like a huge sentence given the amount of international publicity that the case received. But the penalty was in line with state sentencing guidelines for a misdemeanor that some people might describe as a “victimless crime” and for which the defendant has no criminal record and poses no threat to society, said Jim Burke, clinical professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland.
“The only reason people might think the sentence sounds light is because they’re not paying attention to the crime and are looking at the hoopla and circus,” he said. “It was a good story while it lasted but it wasn’t a big crime.”