WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and more than a dozen other men are imploring a Florida judge to prevent the release of videos that police claim depict them getting pleasured by prostitutes at a day spa.
Charged with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, Kraft and the co-defendants filed a motion Thursday asking a Palm Beach County judge to withhold the public release of undercover police videos of the men’s alleged sexual encounters at Orchids of Asia, a now-shuttered day spa in a strip mall in beachside Jupiter.
Kraft and the co-defendants cite a Florida law that provides an exception to the Sunshine State’s broad public-records access requirements when evidence is considered “active criminal intelligence information and/or active criminal investigative information.”
The statute is often used by Florida law enforcement agencies to temporarily deny public record requests related to unresolved criminal cases. In addition to covering evidence in ongoing police investigations, the statute reads that “criminal intelligence and criminal investigative information shall be considered ‘active’ while such information is directly related to pending prosecutions or appeals.”
Kraft was hit with solicitation charges last month in a sting by the Jupiter Police Department, which had been staking out Orchids of Asia since at least October 2018 as part of a multi-agency crackdown on alleged prostitution at day spas in south and central Florida.
Local detectives had rummaged through Orchids of Asia’s trash in late 2018 and collected semen-soaked tissues which they used as evidence to obtain a “sneak and peek” warrant, according to police records. Police then installed cameras at the day spa and amassed a trove of recordings of alleged acts of prostitution, including a video allegedly depicting a masseuse “manipulating Kraft’s penis,” police records state.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty, with his spokesperson saying, “We categorically deny that [he] engaged in any illegal activity.”
His motion to suppress was filed in part by his attorney Jack Goldberger at Atterbury, Goldberger and Weiss in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Another action to stymie the release of undercover police videos collected in the day spa crackdown was dismissed as moot by a judge in Martin County on March 14.
The Martin County complaint, anonymously filed by several defendants in the day spa crackdown, had argued the videos were “unlawfully made,” represented a “shocking affront” to personal privacy, and were “an insult to the decency of our society.”
The judge noted that at the request of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, the videos in question in that action are already sealed in the custody of the court clerk until further order.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Kraft and other defendants were offered a deferred prosecution agreement whereby the charges against them would be dropped if they completed community service and submitted to sexually transmitted disease testing, among other conditions.
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder has publicly stated that it is “manifestly evident” that some workers at spas he investigated were victims of human trafficking.
The Martin County filing argued, however, that none of the spa clients have been arrested on human-trafficking charges. No “evidence revealed thus far demonstrate[s] anything other than … consensual acts between two adults,” the pleading said.
The Orchids of Asia spa operators Hua Zhang and Lei Wang have been charged with collecting proceeds from prostitution, among other counts. They entered initial pleas of not guilty in their respective cases.