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Judge orders billionaire Robert Kraft to show up for next prostitution case hearing
People are reflected in the window of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter on February 22, 2019, after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Billionaire Robert Kraft was ordered Wednesday to attend a May 21 hearing for the judge to set a trial date in his prostitution case.
The trial could start the following day, but it must begin no later than May 27, barring an appeal or if Kraft waives his right to a speedy trial.
Meanwhile,Kraftsdefense aimed to take advantage of a key court ruling Wednesday that prevents prosecutors from using law enforcement videos of sex acts inside massage parlors.
Krafts legal team advised the Palm Beach County judge in his case about a Martin County judges finding: Investigators there violated the rules for a sneak-and-peek warrant allowing secret cameras to record illegal activity.
Lawyers for the 77-year-old owner of the New England Patriots charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution have made identicalarguments that the warrant in his case was unlawful. He was videotaped paying for sex at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, Jupiter police said.
Judge Leonard Hanser will rule whether prosecutors can use the videos against Kraft. Lawyers concluded three days of hearings Wednesday over Krafts claims that the warrant was unconstitutional. His presence was excused.
Martin County Judge Kathleen H. Roberts ruling was in the cases of several men charged with soliciting prostitution. She decided that law enforcement violated federal law by videotaping people getting lawful massages instead of limiting the recordings to illegal sex acts.
There was no effort made to avoid capturing innocent activity behind the closed door of a massage room, Roberts wrote of the requirement to minimize the intrusion and focus just on crimes.
Any evidence gathered as a result of the [sneak-and-peek warrant] is prohibited from use in the prosecution, she ruled.
Defense attorney Richard Kibbey, who represents a dozenmen charged in the Martin County investigation, cheered the order as a great day for the rule of law.
Prosecutors may appeal as a way to save face but this order is bulletproof, Kibbey said. This is going to be the end of the prosecution and it should be persuasive as to the Kraft group as well.
Martin County prosecutors undoubtedly have a much weaker case without the videos showing the sex acts. They also dont have any cooperation from the massage parlor workers.
Kraft attorney William Burck criticized Jupiter police for copying portions of the Martin County warrant to conduct an investigation that was absolutely reckless by any standpoint, and particularly was off-limits for investigating low-level offenses such as prostitution.
Burck argued it was illegal to record everyone who happened to enter Orchids of Asia on those days.
Palm Beach County Assistant State Attorney Greg Kridos told Judge Hanser it is really frustrating to see defense stand up here and compare the Jupiter warrant to the one used in Martin County.
Do they tell the court the facts that were different in that case in the holding by the (Martin County) judge? No, Kridos said, arguing the Jupiter warrant was entirely lawful.
He explained the Martin County Sheriffs Office had unfettered recording of innocent people, while Jupiter detectives in most instances stopped watching people getting actual massages.
They respected the dignity of those people, the prosecutor insisted.
Earlier, Jupiter Detective Andrew Sharp testified he and his colleagues didnt watch customers who received regular massages. Sharp said men who wanted a sexual act got completely naked on the massage table.
Thats a sign to them that you are there as a commercial sex purchaser, he said, explaining that men who kept their boxer shorts on wanted a legitimate rubdown.
When that happened, the police would close that camera view and focus on a different camera, the detective said.
Attorneys representing 31 men who got real massages have filed afederal class-action lawsuit against the Jupiter policedepartment and State Attorney Dave Aronberg. None of those individuals was charged with any wrongdoing from their visits to Orchids of Asia from Jan. 18 to Jan. 22.
Because of the publicity from the Kraft case, they learned that their massages were recorded through the secret cameras that cops planted in the business, the lawsuit states.
The customers had reasonable expectations that their receiving a private service in a private setting would remain that way, the attorneys for the John Does wrote.
This week, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Joseph Marx ordered that all videos of lawful massages must be permanently sealed and not released to the public. Marx and Hanser also have issued separate rulings to keep Krafts videos sealed, at least temporarily, to assure his right to a fair trial.