Hearing will determine whether spa video can be used in Robert Kraft’s case
A hearing will resume Tuesday on whether police surveillance video allegedly showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft during a prostitution sting should be allowed as evidence in his case.
Hundreds of people were charged in the operation involving several massage parlors and day spas in Florida. Kraft, accused of receiving paid sexual services at a day spa in Jupiter on January 19 and 20, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial.
The hearing began Friday before Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser concerning video recorded inside the Jupiter spa, from cameras that police secretly installed days before Kraft’s alleged visits.
Kraft’s attorneys argue that police illegally obtained the video, so it should should be kept from trial.
Earlier this week, Hanser ruled that the video will not be released to the public until after the trial is underway or the case is otherwise adjudicated.
The judge ruled Friday he and the attorneys will watch the video in his chambers during this hearing. An attorney for the media unsuccessfully argued the public had a right to see the video at that time.
Police used a false bomb scare to help them install the cameras, detective says
Friday, Kraft’s attorneys grilled their first witness, Jupiter police Detective Andrew Sharp, about the legality of his efforts to get the warrant that led to the video, and the tactics his department used to install the cameras. He testified for more than six hours, before the judge and attorneys agreed to pick up Tuesday afternoon.
Jupiter police, after gathering evidence they said led them to suspect that the spa was offering illegal sexual services, obtained a “sneak and peek” search warrant from a judge January 15 allowing police to secretly install video cameras inside the business.
Police installed the cameras on January 17 using some deception.
Sharp testified that officers staged a fake bomb scare, allowing them to get the spa’s workers outside so that officers could go inside and install the cameras without the workers’ knowledge.
The “tactical ruse,” as Sharp called it, involved an officer placing a “package” in front of a nearby business the night before. On the day of the camera installation, two women left the business and stood with officers in the parking lot while three detectives went inside and installed hidden cameras in four massage rooms and the lobby, police said in a court document.
Kraft’s attorneys have argued, in part, that the video evidence is inadmissible because police gave false information to the judge who granted the search warrant.
On Friday, Kraft attorney Alex Spiro argued that the police affidavit asking for the warrant used the word “girls” to refer to the masseuses.
The judge would not have known, by reading the affidavit, that the masseuses in fact were middle-aged women, Spiro said.
‘Tawdry but fairly unremarkable event’
While the hearing is focusing on whether the video can be admitted as evidence, Hanser ruled Tuesday that the footage cannot be released to the public for now.
Hanser cited Kraft’s fair trial rights. He ruled the video can be released once a jury is sworn, the case is resolved via plea agreement, or prosecutors decide they no longer want to pursue the charges.
“A 78-year-old man walks into a day spa and, in addition to receiving conventional spa services, he allegedly engages in illegal sexual activity,” Hanser wrote in his ruling. “That seems like a rather tawdry but fairly unremarkable event.”
He added, “But if that man is the owner of the most successful franchise in, arguably, the most popular professional sport in the United States, an entirely different dynamic arises, especially if the encounter is captured on videotape and the incident is the focus of much media attention and pre-trial publicity.”
Hanser stated he may reconsider his decision after the suppression hearing Friday.
Last week, attorneys representing the women accused of running the day spa filed a court motion saying someone attempted to sell the video. They cited a report published on a celebrity news website that claimed it was “recently contacted by a party who claimed to have obtained portions” of the video.
Prosecutors have offered to drop the charges in exchange for fines, community service, and an admission that Kraft would be found guilty if he went to trial. But a source familiar with the case told CNN he would not accept the deal.
“I am truly sorry,” he said in a statement last month. “I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”
A class-action lawsuit
A class-action lawsuit accuses authorities of illegally videotaping customers getting massages at the same Florida spa where Kraft and others allegedly paid for sexual services.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an unidentified John Doe, who was not charged with a crime for patronizing the Orchids of Asia Day Spa from January 18 to 22, while surveillance cameras were rolling.
A judge in a separate case against the spa owner and manager will hear arguments Monday on whether the state is obligated under Florida law to release the video.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Ray Sanchez and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.