Florida prosecutors on Monday signaled they still want to prosecute New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution.
Prosecutors in the case asked an appeals court for a second deadline extension to prepare their case. They were supposed to file their legal briefs Monday, but prosecutors said they needed at least 15 more days to address complex legal issues raised by the use of secret surveillance cameras in the investigation.
The Kraft case and two other related prosecutions “impact not only this case, but also the power of law enforcement to utilize delayed-notice, non-audio video surveillance. . . to combat a range of organized criminal enterprises, including human trafficking, racketeering, and narcotics,’’ prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Kraft’s defense team quickly fired back, urging judges on the Fourth District Court of Appeals, where the case is pending, to keep Monday’s deadline.
“The State has now represented to Mr. Kraft’s counsel that it has, at long last, decided to pursue the appeal. So be it,’’ Kraft’s defense wrote in their court filing. “But there is no explanation as to why, after deeming the appeal worthy of pursuit, the State could not readily set forth its putative grounds for appeal” on Monday.
Kraft was one of 25 men charged by Jupiter police in January as part of an investigation into human trafficking and prostitution in the beach community. Investigators used surveillance cameras secretly installed in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa to gather evidence. No evidence of human trafficking was found, prosecutors later said.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two solicitation charges. He has also issued a public apology.
In the wake of being charged, Kraft’s defense team successfully pushed to have the video evidence blocked from being released under Florida’s public records law. They then convinced a district court judge to suppress the videos because police did not shut off the cameras when people got legal massages.
Jupiter police and Palm Beach County State’s Attorney Dave Aronberg’s office have also charged four women connected to Orchids of Asia, which authorities have said was a house of prostitution masquerading as a massage parlor. The four women have pleaded not guilty. The judge in those cases has suppressed video evidence.
In neighboring Indian River County, a third judge has thrown out secretly recorded video evidence collected against more than 100 men.
All three cases have been consolidated by the appeals court.
“These are issues of first impression in Florida,” prosecutors wrote Monday.
As several local court judges have pointed out, they wrote, there is a dearth of Florida case law addressing delayed notice, non-audio video surveillance. The appeals court, they wrote, will have to resolve questions the case raises relating to the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unlawful search and seizure.
Jupiter police installed five video-only cameras inside Orchids of Asia, operating them between Jan. 18 and Jan. 22. Kraft was allegedly videotaped on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 having sex acts performed on him by a spa employee.
In his apology, in March, Kraft said he was “truly sorry” and pledged to “use the platform with which I have been blessed to help others and to try to make a difference.
“I expect to be judged not by my words, but by my actions. And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect,” he said.