Florida prosecutors bringing the prostitution case against Robert Kraft on Monday pushed back against attempts by lawyers for the New England Patriots owner to discredit the investigation.
The government’s defense of the probe was contained in legal documents submitted in Palm Beach County, where Kraft, 77, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution during separate visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., in January.
Kraft has denied engaging in illegal activity, pleaded not guilty, and requested a jury trial.
One prosecution document filed Monday was a response to a defense motion for a protective order sealing video evidence in the case. A number of media outlets, including The Boston Globe, have opposed the request.
Jupiter police got a warrant to secretly install cameras inside the spa, and the cameras allegedly captured Kraft and 24 other men paying for sex acts, records show.
In Monday’s filing, Assistant State Attorney Greg Kridos took aim at a defense contention that because “the Jupiter Police Department deems the masseuses who are alleged to have performed the sex acts to be victims of a sexual offense the videos are confidential.”
Not so, Kridos wrote Monday.
“All of the masseuses who engaged in acts of prostitution in the Orchids of Asia Spa and who have been identified are being charged with felonies and misdemeanors,” Kridos wrote. “The State and [lead investigator] Detective Andrew Sharp . . . thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence in this case and interviewed a former employee in a sworn statement.”
In addition, Kridos wrote, “Two of the employees who were present at the spa at the time of the execution of the search warrant were interviewed, not arrested, in an effort to determine if, in fact they were victims of human trafficking.”
Kridos said those two employees got a lawyer, and prosecutors “had several conversations with this attorney and advised him that if these two women were, in fact, victims of human trafficking then please bring them into our office. We assured him we would not arrest them, but work with them and provide assistance to them in their plight. To this date . . . this defense attorney never brought these two women in to meet with the State.”
Kridos said during a recent court hearing that while the Orchids spa had the appearance of human trafficking when the probe began last October, none of the men caught in the sting will be charged with trafficking and there “is no human trafficking that arises out of this investigation.”
The question of trafficking is significant because Kraft’s attorneys, in a separate motion, are seeking to have the video evidence thrown out before trial, partially on the grounds that Sharp lied about suspected human trafficking at the spa to get a warrant for the cameras.
That defense motion, if successful, would bar prosecutors from showing the video footage to jurors, severely hampering the government’s case against Kraft.
Mark J. Geragos, a renowned Los Angeles defense lawyer known for his representation of entertainment figures in high-profile cases, said Monday via e-mail that Kraft’s team could have a winning argument in their bid to toss the video evidence.
“The motion has merit,” said Geragos, whose prior clients have included movie director Lee Tamahori in a prostitution case, in which the filmmaker pleaded no contest to trespassing while the prostitution charge was dropped. “The hurdle [in the Kraft case] is establishing whether the officer acted in ‘bad faith.’ But certainly it is a strong position for [the] defense.”
In another filing Monday, Kridos defended Sharp in a response to a routine request from Kraft’s lawyers for evidence that would be exculpatory toward Kraft or that would impeach the credibility of government witnesses.
Such evidence is known as Brady and Giglio material, referring to prior Supreme Court cases dealing with prosecutors’ disclosure obligations in criminal matters.
Kridos wrote in Monday’s response that the government has no evidence relevant to a defense request for information suggesting Sharp “provided false or misleading information in his affidavit” for the camera warrant.
“Under Brady, the State possesses no information, evidence or documents that could be used by Defendant to impeach Detective Andrew Sharp,” Kridos wrote.
The next hearing in Kraft’s case is scheduled for April 26. His attendance isn’t required.
Separately, Lei Wang, the Orchids manager who allegedly provided sexual services to Kraft, and Hua Zhang, the spa’s owner, have filed separate motions in their cases seeking protective orders to seal the video evidence.
Lawyers for Zhang, who faces charges including deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution and maintaining a house of prostitution, noted in their motion that the public already knows the contents of the videos, as described in previously released affidavits.
Zhang’s attorneys said “no legitimate public purpose is served by the release of the video evidence to the public or press. . . . Indeed, the only purpose served by the media and public’s access to such recordings would be for entertainment, amusement, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit. Indeed, the Florida legislature has sought to protect individuals from the dissemination of such humiliating and private images by making it illegal to disseminate surreptitiously recorded video recordings for those purposes.”