BC-FBN--Patriots Owner-Prostitution Charge,1st Ld-Writethru
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft want a Florida judge to block prosecutors from using secretly taken video that police say shows him engaging in paid sex acts with female massage parlor employees.
In court documents filed Thursday, Kraft’s attorneys challenged the warrant allowing Jupiter police officers to hide video cameras in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
Kraft attorney Jack Goldberger wrote that police “deliberately misrepresented” facts used to get a judge to approve their search warrant. The cameras were installed in January after officers used an undisclosed ruse to gain access to the spa. They then used the cameras to monitor employees and customers over several days. Jupiter was part of a multicounty investigation of massage parlor prostitution and possible human trafficking that resulted with the arrests of about 300 men and the closure of 10 spas. The spa owners have been charged with felonies.
Goldberger wrote that the alleged traffic violations the Jupiter officers used to stop men as they left the spa and interview them about what happened in the spa were faked, and officers’ didn’t accurately depict what a health inspector found when they sent her in to examine the spa.
He also said officers had not exhausted less-invasive means of investigating the spa, and Florida law says audio surveillance such as wiretaps should only be used for serious felonies such as murder or kidnapping and does not list prostitution.
Kraft, 77, is accused of paying for sex acts at the spa twice in January. He has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, but issued an apology last weekend, saying he had disappointed his family, friends, co-workers, fans “and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”
Kraft said he has “extraordinary respect for women,” adding that his morals were shaped by his late wife, who died in 2012.
Jupiter police and the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday.
Attorney David S. Weinstein, a Miami defense lawyer and former prosecutor who is not involved in the case, said such a motion is “exactly what he would expect” from Kraft’s attorneys and the others. He said it’s hard to predict the defense’s chances of prevailing without knowing the prosecution’s counterarguments and what is presented at a future hearing.
But even if the defense gets the video recordings thrown out, the judge might still allow police to testify about what they saw on the video and the other evidence collected, and the case would go forward
According to police records, Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was chauffeured to the Orchids of Asia spa on the evening of Jan. 19, where officers secretly recorded him engaging in a sex act and then handing over an undetermined amount of cash.
Investigators said Kraft returned 17 hours later and was again videotaped engaging in sex acts before paying with a $100 bill and another bill, police said.
Hours later, he was in Kansas City for the AFC Championship game, where his Patriots defeated the Chiefs. His team then won the Super Bowl in Atlanta, the Patriots’ sixth NFL championship under his ownership.
Prosecutors have offered to drop the charges if Kraft and the other men enter a diversion program for first-time offenders. That would include an admission they would be found guilty if their case went to trial, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and attendance in a class on the dangers of prostitution and its connection to human trafficking. They would also have to make a court appearance and be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Prosecutors say the fine and community service are required by law and are not negotiable.
Kraft’s attorneys have not spoken about the offer, but other men’s attorneys have said it is harsher than typically given for first-time offenders in Palm Beach County. Fines and community service terms are usually smaller and no court appearance is required, they said.
Weinstein said the attorneys might be hoping the challenge of the warrant will cause prosecutors to soften their proposed deal. If not, he said such pretrial challenges could stretch the case out for months if not a year.