Prosecutors accusing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft of twice buying sex from massage parlor prostitutes will try to save his case this week by arguing in an appeals court that his rights were not violated when police recorded him in secret on the spot.
Prosecutors will tell the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals during an online hearing Tuesday that a county judge made a mistake by invalidating the January 2019 search warrant that allows police to install secret cameras at the Orchids spa. of Asia as part of an alleged sex trafficking investigation.
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The judge said the order did not sufficiently protect the privacy of innocent clients who received legal massages, and prohibited the use of the videos at trial, as well as testimony of what they showed. If the ruling is upheld, it will deliver a fatal blow to the prosecution's case.
"Sir. Kraft's fault is virtual certainty" and he has no right to benefit from possible mistakes the police made in relation to innocent customers, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey DeSousa wrote in court documents.
Kraft's attorneys vehemently disagreed, arguing that if the three-judge panel allows the videos to be used, "cherished civil liberties in Florida and beyond" will be in jeopardy.
"If the state wins this appeal, everyone loses, not just the defendants," wrote attorney Frank Shepherd. "The government could overlook privacy and constitutional rights while evading scrutiny."
Jupiter's police recordings led to misdemeanor charges against Kraft and two dozen other alleged Orchids of Asia customers. Spa owners and some employees are charged with prostitution-related crimes.
Most cases are in limbo while appeals are heard. If prosecutors can't use the videos, they'll almost certainly dismiss the misdemeanor charges awaiting trial. Some defendants accepted plea agreements, but Kraft declined. Serious crime cases could continue as they have other evidence in addition to the videos.
Kraft, a 79-year-old widower and a part-time Palm Beach resident, pleaded not guilty, but issued a public apology. He faces a possible one-year jail sentence if convicted, but would likely receive a fine, community service, and other penalties. Kraft, whom Forbes magazine ranks as the 82nd richest American with a value of nearly $ 7 billion, is employing several high-priced attorneys to fight the charges.
DeSousa presented several arguments against the ruling of Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser. Among them:
– The order is valid because the police minimized any invasion of privacy by having only three detectives monitoring the video. Any further minimization, such as recording only fragments of each massage, would have made the investigation impossible.
– Kraft illegally paid for sex and is legally covered by the order, even if the judges determine that the police violated the privacy rights of innocent customers.
– If the order is not valid, detectives trusted her "in good faith" and a sanction that prohibits the video is too extreme.
Shepherd presented several arguments against Kraft. They include:
– Detectives' privacy protection efforts were insufficient because they recorded diminished men and women receiving legal massages, making Kraft recordings also illegal.
– Police had enough evidence to charge spa owners with serious crime without recording, making the cameras "totally free".
– The evidence presented by detectives to obtain approval of the magistrate's arrest warrant was "deliberately misleading," denying any argument that they acted in good faith.
Judges will not rule immediately after the hearing; decisions usually take weeks. The losing party will likely appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, which could either accept the case or allow the judges' rulings to be upheld.
Authorities say the Asia Orchids investigation was part of a multi-country investigation into possible sex trafficking by spa owners who believe they brought women from China and other places to work as prostitutes. Some 300 people were charged with various felonies and misdemeanors, but no trafficking charges were filed: Prosecutors say they received no cooperation from masseurs who they suspect were trafficked.
According to police, the Kraft driver took him to the Asia Orchids on the night of January 19, 2019, where detectives recorded him engaging in a sexual act with two women and then paying an undetermined amount in cash.
Investigators said Kraft returned the next morning and engaged in recorded sexual acts with a woman before paying with a $ 100 bill and another bill.
Hours later, Kraft was in Kansas City for the AFC Championship game, where his Patriots defeated the Chiefs. His team then won the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta, the Patriots' sixth NFL championship under his ownership.
Prosecutors offered to drop the charges if Kraft entered a criminal diversion program the first time. That would include an admission that he would be found guilty if the case went to trial, a $ 5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and attending a class on the dangers of prostitution and its connection to human trafficking.