New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will suffer “irreparable harm” from the release of video footage that allegedly captured him buying sexual favors at a Florida spa, and public disclosure could “destroy” his chances of getting a fair trial, his lawyers said Wednesday.
Attorneys for Kraft, 77, made the assertions in a legal filing in Palm Beach County, where he currently faces two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., in January.
Kraft, through his representatives, has denied engaging in criminal activity, pleaded not guilty, and requested a jury trial.
He’s requesting that the video footage be sealed pending further order of the court, a motion opposed by several media outlets, including the Boston Globe.
In a memorandum supporting Kraft’s second amended motion to seal the evidence, his legal team said his due process rights hang in the balance.
“In particular, disclosure [of the video evidence] would further infringe Mr. Kraft’s constitutionally protected privacy rights and interests, as well as his constitutional right to a fair trial, in ways that thereafter could not be cured,” his lawyers wrote. “Nor do the interests invoked by the Media weigh as heavy on the scales, or even belong on the scales, particularly at this early stage of the proceeding.”
Attorneys for the media outlets have cast their efforts to obtain the footage, which allegedly shows Kraft paying for sexual favors, as a public service.
“Human sex trafficking has become known as a major human rights tragedy, often involving extensive criminal enterprises,” media outlets’ attorneys said in a recent filing. “In their role as surrogates for keeping the public informed about this matter, the Media Intervenors . . . rely on state, county, and local public records, as well as judicial records, to gather information for this critical news story.”
Kraft was one of 25 men arrested in the investigation at the Jupiter spa, which was linked to a larger probe across multiple Florida counties looking into possible human trafficking at spas. Neither Kraft nor any of the other men arrested have been charged with human trafficking.
Kraft’s lawyers said Wednesday that rights “of public access are important, to be sure, but those rights simply do not go so far as to entitle the Media to get out in front of these proceedings, preempt suppression rulings, and crack open protected law-enforcement files so as to unearth the most sensitive and suspect portions thereof without regard for the defendant’s legitimate privacy and due process rights.”
In a separate motion, Kraft’s lawyers are asking a judge to suppress the video evidence, barring prosecutors from showing it to jurors at trial.
His lawyers have argued that Jupiter police got a warrant to secretly install cameras at the spa by falsely suggesting human trafficking may have been going on there.
In Wednesday’s filing related to the media’s efforts to get the video evidence, Kraft’s lawyers wrote that to “permit media and public access to the Videos would inflict irreparable harm on Mr. Kraft before essential legal determinations and proceedings can run their course.”
A hearing on the media issue is slated for Friday. A hearing on Kraft’s motion to suppress the evidence is scheduled for April 26.
The lawyers argued that the court should at least seal the video evidence until the motion to suppress is decided.
“Given the pendency of Mr. Kraft’s suppression motion, which raises critically important legal objections and constitutional concerns, the Court should, at a minimum, enter and maintain a protective order [sealing the videos] while it considers the fundamental, antecedent legal questions posed by Mr. Kraft’s motion,” his lawyers wrote Wednesday.
The videos “merely appeal to prurient interests and serve no legitimate news-related purpose,” and releasing them would “taint the entire jury pool, thereby frustrating Mr. Kraft’s ability to obtain a fair trial,” the lawyers argued.
Kraft’s attorneys continued, “For the resulting media frenzy to trigger release of sensitive material even before this criminal proceeding and orderly adjudication of critical issues runs its course would take the government’s transgressions to even worse depths of perversity and destroy any prospect of a fair trial.”
The lawyers asserted that the media’s “outsized appetite for the Videos—the substance of which is already purportedly described in publicly available documents—appears to be based not on a desire to shed light on an important public event, but rather appeal to the prurient interests of certain members of the public. If released, these highly prejudicial, illegally obtained, irrelevant, and non-newsworthy Videos are guaranteed to be broadcast all around the world, thereafter making it virtually impossible for Mr. Kraft to obtain a fair trial.”
The motion said the videos “add nothing appreciable to the public discourse (as distinct from tawdry, tabloid fodder) while posing obvious, pronounced risks to Mr. Kraft’s constitutional right to a fair trial.”
Separately this week, an attorney for the Orchids of Asia Day Spa manager, Lei Wang, reiterated their reasoning behind a request for a protective order blocking public access to video evidence in investigation.
Police say they have video of Kraft receiving sexual services from two women at the spa on Jan. 19: Lei Wang and 58-year-old Shen Mingbi.
When Kraft returned to the spa the next morning, he allegedly received sex from Wang alone.
Wang and the spa’s owner, 58-year-old Hua Zhang, each face 30 counts related to running a house of prostitution.
In court papers filed Tuesday, attorneys for Wang argued investigative materials, particularly the videos, are exempt from public disclosure because they constitute “[a]ctive criminal intelligence information[/or] active criminal investigative information.”
The filing also argued that video footage in the case pertaining to a victim or witness violates an article of the Florida State constitution guranteeing a defendant’s right to privacy.
“[T]he public disclosure of conduct, which occurs in private and when there is a clear expectation of privacy, improperly infringes on the Defendant’s rights . . . . through the public disclosure of private facts and the public’s intrusion into Defendant’s right to seclusion, regardless of the public’s right to obtain public records, causing the Defendant to suffer additional harm,” read Tuesday’s filing.Danny McDonald and Bob Hohler of Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.