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.
Time for concern after XFL TV ratings declined again last week?
For the second consecutive week, the XFL televison ratings continued to slide in the wrong direction. And, the troubling part is that if the trend continues, the XFL will have no leverage for sponsors and revenue to keep it going long term.
First, here are the specifics on the bad viewership news: According to Showbuzzdaily.com all four XFL broadcasts last Saturday and Sunday afternoon had lower ratings in their slot than the previous week.
That includes the Tampa Bay Vipers home debut against Houston, which was the early game on ABC Saturday. And, while that window had 400,000 less viewers than week 2, the bigger concern is ABC has lost almost 40% of the audience from the 3.3 million average that watched their Week one debut game on Saturday afternoon.
The ratings downward trend is following the same pattern as last Spring’s Alliance of American Football, where the ratings dwindled to under a million fans for broadcasts by week five and eventually the league shut down after just eight weeks. This was in part because of concerns on how the AAF could make any revenue, through television in specific, if they had very little audience for the end of year one and to sell off of for year two.
Now, WWE owner Vince McMahon, who folded the XFL the first time in 2001 in large part because the television audience plummeted over the course of the first month or so of its existence and never recovered, has the same issue in 2020.
And, as we wrote previously, this audience decline while negative is far less McMahon’s original XFL and it’s first season of 2001. That’s when, it debuted on its first Saturday night on NBC with a massive 10.1 rating, which translated 18 years ago to more than 9.5 viewers on network TV. A Smashing success.
However, the XFL’s ratings plummeted starting the following week and had fewer than 25% of that opening night audience just a month later with the games still being shown on a Saturday night coveted slot on NBC. It doomed the league from a P.R. and sponsor standpoint and McMahon pulled the plug.
Now, in 2020, McMahon reportedly has money to burn and is apparently prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in year one. So, even if the XFL TV ratings continue come down significantly, it will not spell the end of the XFL (like it did nearly 20 years ago) after just a single season.
At least, that’s what we think.
Vipers better but drop third straight game in home opener
Although their play was improved offensively, in the end it wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Vipers after they dropped their third straight XFL game to start the season 34 – 27 to Houston Saturday afternoon in Tampa.
Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, as Houston scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by seven and held off the Viper the rest of the way.
The Vipers offense came to life after they had failed to score in the offensive touchdown in either of their first two games. Both of which were losses on the road. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius, subbing for starter Aaron Murray who missed his second straight game with an injured foot, once again had modest numbers 16-31 for 193 yards 1 TD, 1 INT.
However, he did pull the game even at 18 – 18 at the half after scoring on a one yard QB sneak and Tampa Bay got the two-point conversion.
Still, the former Oklahoma State quarterbacks day was inconsistent and the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium began to chant the name “Flowers, Flowers” for former USF Star Quarterback Quinton Flowers, who played sparingly for the third straight game in a reserve role.
Flowers got Tampa Bay’s first offensive TD on the young season with a seven yard run in the first quarter, but only played QB sparingly in the game, again. He was just 4-6 for 57 yards passing with 29 yards on six attempts on the ground.
Meanwhile, the former Temple star Walker found receiver Cam Phillips for the third of their three touchdown hookups from 17 yards out to give Houston a 34 – 27 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Phillips devastated Jerry Glanville’s Vipers defense for 194 yards receiving on eight catches with the three TDs.
The Vipers look like they were going to have a chance to re-tie the game when Cornelius (above) completed a pass to his top target on the day, Jaylen Tolliver, at the two-yard line. However just like a week ago in Seattle when a critical fourth quarter drive stalled and Tampa Bay came away with no points in a 17 – 9 lost the Dragons, the Vipers got no points after Cornelius threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs.
Many in the crowd and observers in the media were curious, as to why coach Marc Trestman didn’t go to Flowers as the dual threat running QB to at least try something different on one of those plays? Flowers even questioned why he did not play more after the game to the media.
The Vipers got the ball one final time, but Cornelius was picked off near midfield with just over a minute left to seal the defeat.
The Vipers played the first spring professional football game in Tampa, since the closing of the USFL 1985 season. That’s when Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits were a popular item at Old Tampa Stadium. Saturday’s home opener drew and announced crowd of 18,117.
However it’s little consolation for former Bears and CFL coach Trestman and his team, as they remain winless on the season. The L.A. Wildcats playing Sunday are the other 0-2 team in the league, currently.
And, you have to wonder whether Trestman will be forced to go to Flowers for the start when they host the D.C. Defenders next week.