Several media outlets pushed back Wednesday against a request by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other defendants charged with soliciting prostitution in Florida to keep evidence sealed in the case, including video footage of the alleged sex acts.
The outlets, including The New York Times, ESPN, Associated Press, and ABC, filed a motion this week in a Palm Beach County courthouse opposing the request by lawyers for Kraft, 77, and the other defendants to keep the evidence hidden from public view.
Kraft, through his lawyers, has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution. Through a spokesman, he’s denied engaging in any illegal activity. He’s not charged with human trafficking, though authorities in Florida have described their stings, at spas in multiple counties, as a crackdown on trafficking.
“Human sex trafficking has become known as a major human rights tragedy, often involving extensive criminal enterprises,” the media outlets’ motion said. “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.”
The media outlets asserted that the defense lawyers are seeking an “overarching ban on the dissemination of any evidence related to the Defendants’ cases, requesting that this Court preclude any party from ‘copying or permitting, facilitating, making, or granting any public access to the evidence gathered during the investigation at issue, including any video-evidence related thereto.’ ”
Kraft and the other defendants were allegedly captured on secretly installed surveillance cameras engaged in sex acts they paid money for at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., in January.
The media outlets’ motion said the “surveillance videos — which Defendants appear to be most particularly interested in keeping from the public — are no different than other records and become public once turned over in discovery. Any purported privacy concerns do not, and cannot, prevent disclosure.”
Earlier this month, lawyers for Kraft and the other defendants had filed a motion for a protective order seeking to keep the evidence sealed “pending further order of the Court.”
The defense attorneys wrote the “Materials are exempt from public disclosure because they constitute ‘[a]ctive criminal intelligence information and[/or] active criminal investigative information,’ both of which are” exempt from public disclosure.
No ruling has been issued yet on the video footage and other evidence.
On Tuesday, Kraft’s lawyers entered a not-guilty plea for him and requested a jury trial, a reversal from a prior legal filing in which the billionaire’s defense team sought a bench trial.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.