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Robert Kraft attorney argues ‘specter of police state’ was raised in challenge to prostitution case

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The use of hidden cameras by police to record Robert K. Kraft and other men as they allegedly paid for sex at the Orchids of Asia day spa raises “the specter of a police state,” a lawyer for Kraft said Tuesday in an appeals court hearing.

The 2019 charges against Kraft and two dozen other men who allegedly paid for sex at the Jupiter, Fla., spa were the subject of arguments before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals. The court is also reviewing cases against women who worked at the spa and dozens of men arrested at other spas in other counties.

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“In all of these cases is the specter of a police state, one where police can inject the most invasive forms of surveillance into the most sensitive and private of settings to investigate the most mundane of offenses,” said Kraft attorney Derek L. Shaffer.

Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution and has denied engaging in illegal activity. A lower court judge has banned the use of surveillance video of Kraft as he allegedly engaged in a sexual act with a prostitute, but prosecutors contend the judge made a legal mistake and should let them use footage of Kraft and other men arrested in the case.

Shaffer said that Jupiter police failed to minimize the impacts on the people they secretly videotaped over five days. Legitimate massages given to some men were recorded, he noted.

In urging the appellate panel to leave intact the ruling throwing out the video recordings as evidence, Shaffer said that the lead police officer lied under oath in the affidavit requesting authorization to use the cameras.

But Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey P. DeSousa told the panel that the suspicions police had that illegal activity was ongoing at the Orchids of Asia spa, and others in southern Florida, were confirmed by what they learned from the surveillance.

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In the Kraft case, DeSousa said that 90 percent of the men who entered the Orchids of Asia spa ended up paying for sex. In two other investigations, the percentages were 94 and 99 percent. He said that police were concerned that human trafficking might be going on because they never saw some of the women leave the spa after it closed its doors. Human trafficking was not found, authorities said.

“What we think law enforcement did here was entirely rational,‘' DeSousa told the panel during a Zoom hearing. “You need to have the nexus — the cash exchanging hands from the johns to the prostitutes and the prostitutes to the owners.”

The panel of Judges Robert M. Gross, Melanie G. May, and Cory J. Ciklin took the matter under advisement.


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.