Share This Page

Do prostitution clients have a right to privacy?

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Working on an expedited schedule, the state Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday on whether prostitution clients who are videotaped without their knowledge during sex acts have a right to privacy under state law.

A prosecutor urged the Supreme Judicial Court to reinstate 46 invasion-of-privacy counts against Mark Strong Sr., who's accused of helping a Zumba instructor run a prostitution business in the seaside town of Kennebunk.

Defense lawyer Dan Lilley said lawmakers never intended to protect prostitution clients or other criminals from surveillance.

The seven-member panel was asked to rule swiftly because jury selection in Strong's trial has been put on hold in York County.

York County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon argued that the state privacy law that protects innocent people in bathrooms and locker rooms also protects people engaging in sex in a private setting.

“No one would argue for a minute that that person didn't expect privacy there. So why would it be any different if money changed hands?” he said.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley cut him off, pointing out that there's a big difference in sex between “volunteer social companions” and those paying a prostitute for sex.

The entire panel proceeded to jump into the fray with skeptical questions about how far the state should go in conferring privacy rights and whether there should be an expectation of surveillance at certain businesses.

Gordon told the justices that sexual relations are “the most private, intimate thing that people can do” and that the state intended to protect the privacy of those acts. He said the law makes no distinction between paid or unpaid sex.

Jury selection in the trial of Strong, who faces 13 other counts that deal with promotion of prostitution, has been twice delayed by appeals to the state supreme court.

The first dealt with First Amendment issues raised about the closed-door jury selection process. The second deals with the dismissal of the invasion-of-privacy charges.

Fitness instructor Alexis Wright set up the video equipment and Strong watched from his computer, making thousands of still images from the live video stream, Gordon told the justices.

The justices must rule quickly to avoid starting over with a new jury pool because service ends for the current jury pool at month's end.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.