A huge victory, at least for now, has happened for Robert Kraft and his defense team against his solicitation of prostitution charges earlier this year in Palm Beach County.
Judge Robert Hanser ruled on Monday afternoon the video that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Jupiter Police Department, obtained in January at the “Orchids of Asia Day Spa” was obtained illegally and under false pretenses with the search warrant:
A Florida judge granted NFL team owner Robert Kraft's request to suppress surveillance video footage and other evidence in his prostitution solicitation case, a major blow to the case against him https://t.co/8mNJ5UG4Zu pic.twitter.com/we9C4p7PVa
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) May 13, 2019
Kraft’s lawyers have contended to the court all along that police officials should not have been granted the far-reaching “sneak-and-peek search warrant” that exists in Florida to allow them to place cameras inside the day spa. That’s because, they say that law enforcement convinced the judge to give them that warrant under the pretense that human trafficking violations were going on, even though, there was not enough evidence to grant it.
The State Attorney in Palm Beach County countered, by saying until they put the cameras in, they could not verify exactly what was happening. And, that’s when they captured 25 men, including Kraft, in a four-day period visiting the day spa and engaging in various sexual acts with workers in private rooms there.
Kraft was alleged to have been surveilled on both Saturday January 20th and Sunday January 21st, as having paid for just such sex acts in a private room.
Prosecutors in the case do have the option to appeal Hanser’s ruling. However, if they are not successful, this all but eliminates their hope of getting a conviction on the solicitation charges
Prosecutors were also trying to use the video tape as leverage to get Kraft to plea-bargain to avoid jail time, more publicity of a trial, and further humiliation besides the reports of the video’s existence. Several of the other defendants who were videotaped, already accepted such a plea deal that avoided jail time and trials.
The final component that is still being argued is whether the videotape will still be released or not, anyway. This as, under Florida law that has been upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, evidence in any case (including a video) can be released to the media / public, even if, there hasn’t been a trial or a conviction.
Lawyers for national and local media outlets have argued that point to the judge back last month, and still await the ruling.
As we have written about repeatedly, the NFL could go ahead and make its own determination that Kraft violated the personal conduct policy, even without a criminal conviction against Kraft.
And, they have done so in recent cases involving Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who were both under investigation for inappropriate conduct, or in Elliot’s case domestic violence. Yet, neither was criminally charged, much less convicted. Still, both were suspended without pay under the NFL’s authority within the collective bargaining agreement.
Further, the NFL disciplined Colts owner Robert Irsay in 2014 by suspending him six games and finding him $500,000 after his DUI charges led to a guilty plea that year.
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