A Florida appeals court has agreed to hear arguments in the misdemeanor prostitution case against Robert Kraft, roughly one year after the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots was initially charged with soliciting sexual favors at a Jupiter spa.
In a brief order, the Fourth District Court of Appeals approved a prosecution request for oral arguments in the case involving Kraft, 78, and two related cases against other defendants.
The order said lawyers for all concerned parties “shall confer and file a joint response addressing the suggested manner in which oral argument is to proceed, including, within the next two months, the most optimum date to proceed, the total number of minutes requested per side, and the suggested breakdown of allotted time to each party.”
Prosecutors are appealing a lower court ruling that suppressed video surveillance footage that allegedly captured Kraft receiving sexual favors for a fee on two consecutive days at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter in January 2019, shortly before the Pats captured the AFC title en route to their sixth Super Bowl victory.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution and denied engaging in illegal activity.
Kraft’s legal team has said in court papers that “everyone loses” if the appellate panel accepts prosecutors’ “perverse view of the law” and reverses the ruling that threw out the video footage.
“Government could run roughshod over privacy and constitutional rights while evading scrutiny and check” if prosecutors win the appeal, Kraft’s lawyers wrote in an October filing. “That outcome would be directly counter to the Constitution, civil liberties, and the rule of law.”
Police had obtained a warrant to equip the spa with hidden cameras that allegedly showed Kraft and a number of other men paying women to perform sexual acts on them during massage sessions.
In the October filing, Kraft’s legal team reiterated the assertion that the warrant was deeply flawed, in part because it failed to instruct police to avoid filming people getting legitimate massages during the multiday sting, a legal principle known as minimization.
“Were the State’s perverse view of the law accepted, the minimization requirement would be gutted: criminal defendants could not raise minimization failures, and virtually no one else would be positioned to complain, let alone obtain redress,” Kraft’s attorneys wrote. “Law enforcement would have no incentive to remain within constitutional bounds when injecting the most invasive forms of surveillance into the most sensitive settings.”
But in a September filing, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office maintained that Kraft’s guilt is “a virtual certainty” and that the warrant passed legal muster.
According to Moody’s office, the search warrant met federal legal thresholds “which together require only that the warrant be issued by a neutral and detached magistrate, be predicated on a showing of probable cause, and be particularized as to the place to be searched and items to be seized.”
Moody’s office said that of the 39 recordings of customers at the spa, only four failed to capture any criminal conduct. None “of those four individuals were recorded naked," they wrote. Two were men and two were women.