WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – Media outlets from across the country are squaring up for a court battle with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft over his attempts to block the release of videos that police say show him engaged in sexual encounters at a Florida day spa.
The New York Times, ABC, Orlando Sentinel, The Associated Press and a slew of other media outlets claim in Palm Beach County court that undercover police videos of Kraft and other defendants’ alleged sex acts with the day spa workers are public records and should be released just as any run-of-the-mill evidence would be.
Kraft is among the defendants who were charged last month as part of a sweeping crackdown on alleged prostitution at day spas in south and central Florida. He is charged with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution at the now-shuttered Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Fla.
The media companies are seeking status as intervenors in the criminal case for the limited purpose of opposing Kraft’s motion for a protective order, which asks the court to prevent the videos’ release. Filed by Kraft and more than a dozen other men, the motion cites an exception to Florida’s public-records access requirements when evidence is part of an active criminal case.
The media companies counter that since publicly available police records describe the alleged escapades in detail, the content of the videos is already in the public domain, and the exemption Kraft is citing no longer applies per Florida case law.
In an interview, Mark Caramanica, an attorney for the media coalition, denied that the fight to access the videos stems solely from an interest in obtaining salacious material for consumption.
“The larger issue that is important to consider is that these records are part of the criminal process, and the public has a right to monitor the proceedings,” he said.
“It’s an open process. It always has been, and the public has a right to witness [it],” Caramanica added.
In their filing, the news outlets draw a distinction between a “confidential” record and a record that is covered under the active-investigation exemption from public access. They claim the underlying statute gives government agencies and police “discretion” to withhold or release active case evidence, but does not make those records outright “confidential.”
And while the law does allow for the withholding of evidence “related to pending prosecutions or appeals,” the media companies claim that allowance ends once the evidence is provided to a criminal defendant during the discovery process.
In addition to Caramanica, the media outlets are represented by Dana McElroy, Daniela Abratt, Carol Jean LoCicero with the law firm of Thomas & LoCicero. Their filing points out that Kraft sought to stop not only the release of the videos, but the publication of general evidence “gathered during the investigation” as well.
Kraft on Tuesday reasserted a not-guilty plea, waived his right to an arraignment and requested a trial by jury.
The manufacturing industry magnate and NFL team owner, whose wife of nearly 50 years died in 2011, issued an apology statement on Saturday.
“I am truly sorry. 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,” he said. “The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women.”