BC-US--Patriots Owner-Prostitution Charge,2nd Ld-Writethru, US
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Florida police officer testified Wednesday that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was “very engaging” during a “happy-go-lucky traffic stop” after his luxury car was pulled over following his visit to a massage parlor where he is charged with paying for a sex act.
The testimony came on the third day of a hearing in which Kraft’s attorneys are arguing that hidden surveillance video of the Patriots owner at the spa should be thrown out.
Describing the January traffic stop, Jupiter Police Officer Scott Kimbark said he identified Kraft and his driver from their driver’s licenses and Kraft also identified himself.
“He asked me if I was a Dolphin’s fan,” said Kimbark, referring to the Miami football team. “He told me he was the owner of the New England Patriots.”
Another police officer, Michael Nicholson, who had tailed Kraft’s white Bentley as it left the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, testified there was probable cause to pull over the vehicle since it had failed to stop at a sign in the plaza where the spa is located and the vehicle crossed over a solid street line.
Nicholson said he stopped following the Bentley once Kimbark started following it.
Kraft’s attorneys are trying to convince Judge Leonard Hanser that Jupiter detective Andrew Sharp illegally obtained a warrant to install hidden video cameras in the Jupiter, Florida, spa and Kraft’s constitutional right to privacy was violated.
Detectives Danielle Hirsch and Troy Jenne, who monitored the surveillance video on tablets in real time, said they typically were able to spot whether customers were there for illicit sex acts or legitimate massages based on whether customers kept on or took off their underwear upon entering the massage rooms.
If the massages appeared legitimate, the detectives said they minimized the screens capturing that video feed and switched to watching other video feeds from four massage rooms. In several cases where lights in the massage room were turned off, no charges were filed against the patrons even though the detectives strongly suspected sex acts were going on, they said.
Kraft was one of almost 300 men who were charged in February with paying for sex acts during police busts at 10 massage parlors that stretched from the Palm Beach area to Orlando.
In one of those cases in a neighboring jurisdiction, a judge Wednesday ruled video surveillance from police busts at two massage parlors in Martin County can’t be used in prosecuting prostitution charges against alleged patrons. Detectives didn’t follow rules to minimize the surveillance of noncriminal activity in massage rooms at two spas there, said Judge Kathleen Roberts.
The judge’s decision in Martin County is independent of whatever the judge in neighboring Palm Beach County decides in Kraft’s case.
The hidden video surveillance captured innocent customers who were getting legitimate massages at the Martin County spas, Roberts said in her ruling.
″Because of its highly intrusive nature, the requirements to curtail what can be captured must be scrutinized and high levels of responsibility must be met to avoid the intrusion on the activities of the innocent,” the judge wrote. “These strict standards simply weren’t met in this case.”