FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida prosecutors said Monday that they will not appeal a court ruling throwing out video recordings allegedly showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft paying for massage parlor sex acts, making it likely that misdemeanor charges against him and other customers will be dropped.
Prosecutors decided that if they challenged last month's Florida 4th District Court of Appeal decision to the state Supreme Court and lost, it could have “broader, negative implications” on future law enforcement investigations, The Florida Attorney General’s Office said.
The 4th District ruling found that Jupiter police violated the rights of Kraft and the others when they secretly installed video cameras inside massage rooms at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in early 2019 and banned their use at trial.
“Based on that analysis and after consulting with the prosecuting state attorney’s office, the decision was made not to seek further discretionary review,” attorney general spokeswoman Kylie Mason said in an email to The Associated Press.
The state's decision means the charges against Kraft and about 20 other men will likely be dismissed. The recordings, which have not been made public, are the only known evidence that the men paid for sex.
Felony charges against the Orchids of Asia spa owners and employees might proceed as there is other evidence against them, such as financial records.
Kraft's attorneys declined comment on the decision, but filed a motion Monday asking that the recordings be destroyed so they could never be released to the public. They said Kraft might be willing to pay the state's costs if anyone challenges a destruction order.
“Only by ordering the State to destroy the Videos and to comply with interim measures securing them can the Court guard against the palpable risk of further leak or misuse and correspondingly vindicate the constitutional principles and rights that are at stake in this case,” Kraft attorney Frank Shepherd wrote.
Kraft, 79, and others were charged in February 2019 in a multicounty investigation of massage parlors that included the secret installation of video cameras in the spas’ lobbies and rooms. Police say the recordings show Kraft and other men engaging in sex acts with women and paying them.
Police say they recorded Kraft, a widower, paying for sex acts at the Orchids of Asia spa on consecutive days in January 2019. Kraft pleaded not guilty but issued a public apology for his actions.
A county court judge originally threw out the recordings, saying the warrant allowing the cameras' installation didn’t sufficiently protect the privacy of innocent customers who received legal massages. The 4th District agreed, ruling last month that planting video cameras in private spaces is an “extreme” measure that should only be used when absolutely necessary.
“To permit otherwise would yield unbridled discretion to agents of law enforcement and the government, the antithesis of the constitutional liberty of people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures,” the court ruled.
Prosecutors argued that they needed the recordings to convict the Orchids of Asia owners of felonies, including possible human trafficking — though no one was charged with that crime. The owners must be shown receiving payments from the prostitutes and the only way to get that is to install cameras, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Kraft would have likely received a fine, community service and other sanctions that did not include jail time.
According to Forbes Magazine, Kraft is worth almost $7 billion. He employed several high-priced attorneys to defend him in the case. Even if the charges are dropped, Kraft could still face a suspension or other punishment from the National Football League.