MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) -— Attorneys for the owner of the New England Patriots on Wednesday attacked a police investigation that led to their client, Robert Kraft being charged with paying for sex at a massage parlor.
Attorneys said officers violated the U.S. and state constitutions and used tactics normally reserved for serious crimes rather than low-level offenses.
In a 92-page court filing, Kraft’s high-profile attorneys allege Jupiter, Florida, police misrepresented evidence to obtain a search warrant that allowed them to secretly install video cameras at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Police say those cameras recorded Kraft twice paying to have sex with spa employees.
Kraft’s attorneys argued that using the cameras to prosecute misdemeanor crimes violated constitutional privacy protections and prohibitions against unreasonable searches. In addition, a Florida law says police can only make secret recordings when investigating certain serious felonies. Kraft is charged with solicitation, which is not a felony.
The attorneys want all evidence collected against Kraft thrown out. If they’re successful, the case against Kraft could be dismissed and the other 24 men who have been similarly charged in the Orchids of Asia investigation could try to follow suit.
The multicounty investigation resulted in about 300 men being charged, 10 massage parlors being closed and their owners charged with felony prostitution charges. Investigators have said they were targeting human traffickers, but no one in the Orchids of Asia case has been charged with that crime.
Jupiter police “resorted to the most drastic, invasive, indiscriminate spying conceivable,” Florida attorney Jack Goldberger wrote. He is being joined by William Burck of Washington, D.C., who also represents former White House aides Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus in the Robert Mueller investigation; and Alex Spiro of New York, who is known for representing high-profile entertainers and athletes.
“Law enforcement, in this case, had no authority whatsoever for something as drastic as ‘sneak and peak’ video surveillance,” they wrote.
Kraft, 77, was charged in February with paying for sex acts at the spa twice in January, hours before the Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game. They would go on to win the Super Bowl, their sixth title under his ownership.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty, but issued an apology last month, 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 2011.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office declined to comment Wednesday. Jupiter police did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.
Kraft’s attorneys allege Jupiter police had enough evidence to close down Orchids of Asia long before they installed the video cameras. That evidence, they said, included statements by officers in a search warrant request that they had seen only men enter the spa; had seen online statements from customers that the spa’s female employees accepted money for sex; had found evidence of sexual activity in the spa’s trash bin; and had gotten confessions from men leaving the spa.
But instead of closing the spa, the officers sent a health inspector to spy on the business, the lawyers said. They said that her report gave scant evidence of possible human trafficking, but the officers’ request for a search warrant stated she had found ample evidence. The lawyers say investigators used that to persuade the judge that secret video was justified.
They say officers then spent days viewing men undressing to receive legal massages, and then, in some cases, engaging in consensual sex.
“Law enforcement used maximally invasive, constitutionally suspect surveillance in order to investigate what was really nothing more than a run-of-the-mill misdemeanor,” the attorneys wrote.