AP NEWS

Case Against Kraft May Be Doomed

May 16, 2019

The criminal cases against Robert Kraft and others linked to the Orchids of Asia sting are on life support after a judge tossed the video evidence and the Florida cops continue to take flak for their approach to filming in the spa, legal experts say.

“The state will probably have to drop these cases,” West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Valentin Rodriguez, who is not involved in the case, told the Herald. Rodriguez, who has handled Florida solicitation cases, said the video was the prosecution’s strongest evidence against the 77-year-old billionaire.

The New England Patriots owner is charged with paying for sex acts on two different occasions at the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Fla., in the days before his team played in the AFC Championship in January. He’s one of 25 men charged, along with the alleged madam and a masseuse.

Kraft won a huge victory Monday when a judge — chewing out the cops in a stinging 10-page ruling -- found that the hundreds of hours of video police had surreptitiously recorded were inadmissible in court because the surveillance indiscriminately caught other men and women coming into the spa for legitimate massages.

Former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne said cops should have known better to take “minimization” actions — making sure the surveillance only caught criminal activity and didn’t infringe on law-abiding people’s privacy.

“It seems obvious they should have taken minimization efforts at a massage parlor,” Alksne said. “It was too broad.”

Miami defense attorney Brett Schwartz, also not a part of the case, said it is now on shaky ground.

“There’s an expectation of privacy for a public citizen and business,” Schwartz said.

Former Boston police Commissioner Ed Davis, now a security consultant, said the Jupiter cops’ reported methods seemed questionable from the start.

“It was an overreach on the part of the police,” Davis told the Herald. “I don’t think you’d be able to obtain that type of warrant at all in Massachusetts, based on my understanding of privacy.”

Davis said catching johns and the people who run brothels are both worthy goals — but there are better and less invasive ways to do so, using undercover officers and sting operations. To get the madams or pimps, cops can surveil from the outside and tap phones while also sending in undercover officers. Cops posing as prostitutes can nab johns, he said.

“We did many of those,” Davis said of his long career in law enforcement. “I can’t guess why they thought that this was the best way to go at it if they thought it was human trafficking.”

Jupiter police didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Neither Kraft’s attorneys nor Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s office responded to questions about their next moves. Both sides are due back in court Friday for a status hearing.

“The case should have been dismissed within minutes of that order coming down,” said New York defense attorney Joe Tacopina. He is representing several noncharged people who are anonymously suing the cops and prosecutor in federal court, claiming their privacy was violated by being filmed at the spa while receiving a nonsexual massage.

Valentin, the West Palm Beach lawyer, said the only hope the state attorney’s office has is for witnesses to cooperate, which he said is unlikely.