JUPITER, Fla. — This much is not in dispute: The man wearing a blue shirt and cap who stepped out of a white Bentley at 4:45 p.m. on Jan. 19 and strode into the Orchids of Asia Day Spa was Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
It also seems beyond doubt that the woman who was recorded greeting Kraft at the front counter was the 45-year-old manager, Lei Wang, known to customers as “Lulu.’’
But much else about the case remains subject to scrutiny as Kraft’s lawyers defend him against misdemeanor charges that he twice solicited prostitution at the massage parlor.
Kraft’s defense team filed a motion last week to suppress any evidence stemming from secret police video recordings of him at the spa and a traffic stop after he left the purported brothel, citing possible violations of his constitutional rights barring unreasonable searches and seizures.
A Globe review of law-enforcement documents filed in the case found a number of other lines of inquiry that have received little public attention but almost certainly are being examined by Kraft’s lawyers as they try to compel prosecutors to drop the charges, a judge to dismiss them, or a jury to clear him.
The issues range from who else beyond those facing charges might have been involved in the spa operation to the legality of the video recordings and traffic stop.
When Kraft attorney Jack Goldberger entered not guilty pleas for him last Tuesday, he asked that Kraft be tried by a jury, rather than a judge, as he previously requested. Pretrial hearings are scheduled for Tuesday and April 9.
In court, a Kraft victory would look like this: He would emerge with a clean record and a court order ensuring that any video recordings of him are never made public.
Both his lawyers and prosecutors have declined to publicly discuss the evidence in detail, and they have not fully disclosed their defense strategy. But there are areas where, other attorneys say, they could mount a defense.
The other women
Police say they have video of Kraft receiving sexual services from two women at the spa on Jan. 19: Lei Wang and 58-year-old Shen Mingbi.
When Kraft returned to the spa the next morning, he allegedly received sex from Wang alone.
Yet of the two women who allegedly performed sexual acts on Kraft, only Wang has been charged. She and the spa’s owner, 58-year-old Hua Zhang, each face 30 counts related to running a house of prostitution.
Wang, who was arraigned Thursday, has yet to post bond and remains in jail.
But Mingbi remains free, despite allegedly not only providing sex to Kraft and others but working at times at the spa’s front counter, according to court documents. And no one has explained why.
When Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr announced the charges against the women, Kraft, and 24 other male customers last month, he said, “Our concern in this investigation centers around the possibility of victims of human trafficking.’’
But more than a month later, no trafficking charge has been filed. Nor has anyone been charged with transporting women for prostitution, as was a spa operator in nearby Vero Beach.
“Any suggestion of human trafficking being suspected was unfounded and irresponsible,’’ Kraft’s lawyers stated in Thursday’s motion.
They may want to know why Mingbi has not been charged. Do prosecutors consider her a victim? Or is she cooperating with police? Might she have evidence beneficial to Kraft?
When police executed a search warrant at a Jupiter bank, they discovered $43,800 in Mingbi’s safety deposit box, records show.
She has been a licensed massage therapist in Florida since 2017, when she listed her address as an apartment in Flushing, N.Y.
And what about 46-year-old Hua Cao, who also allegedly provided sexual services to men at the spa, according to police affidavits. She, too, has not been charged.
It seems unlikely that Cao was a trafficking victim. She has been a licensed massage therapist in Florida since 2015, and she lives in a townhouse in Riviera Beach that she bought in 2014 with her husband, Oliver Dong Ao, also a licensed massage therapist.
Meanwhile, who is 43-year-old Lei Chen, a person whose bank accounts were frozen after police executed a search warrant in connection with the Orchids case? There appears to be no other reference to Chen in publicly available court documents.
Zhang, the spa’s alleged boss, will interest Kraft’s lawyers particularly because she agreed to speak with police after she signed off on her Miranda rights, according to a court document.
The traffic stop
Some 41 minutes after Kraft entered the Orchids spa on Jan. 19, he climbed back into the Bentley’s front passenger seat. His unidentified driver wheeled away, and they were pulled over soon after by Jupiter police.
Court records say “the front seat passenger was positively identified’’ as Kraft by his Massachusetts driver’s license. No probable cause for the stop has been cited in court documents, and no reason has been given for police requesting Kraft’s identification.
Kraft is one of 19 men charged in the case whose vehicles were pulled over by police after they left the spa. In their motion to suppress evidence, Kraft’s lawyers asserted that the stops were unlawful because police had no “reasonable suspicion that the drivers had committed any traffic offense.’’
Before Jupiter police secretly installed video surveillance at the spa, they pulled over for questioning four patrons they saw leaving the place. In affidavits, the officers cited probable cause for each stop — running a red light, speeding, and two “traffic control’’ violations — and those men were not charged in the spa case.
Later, after covert surveillance cameras were installed at the spa, police pulled over Kraft and the 18 other men who were later charged with soliciting prostitution. But prosecutors have yet to cite in public documents probable cause for any of the stops.
Records show the Jupiter police went to such lengths to identify the spa’s patrons that they stopped two men who left the massage parlor on foot. In one case, they followed a customer as he walked from the spa into a nearby Publix supermarket, then stopped him when he came out of the store for an alleged pedestrian violation.
The Supreme Court has given police broad latitude to stop people for minor infractions if they are investigating more serious allegations. Kraft’s lawyers have made clear they plan to test how far police can go.
Sneak and peek
The USA Patriot Act, signed into law six weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks, gave investigators greater freedom to conduct searches without a subject’s knowledge through so-called sneak and peek warrants.
Jupiter police used a “sneak and peek’’ to install the hidden cameras at the Orchids spa. Kraft’s lawyers argued Thursday that “ ‘sneak and peek’ surveillance should never be resorted to without satisfying constitutional strictures that were blown past in this instance.’’
Jupiter police stated in court records that they staged a “tactical ruse’’ to remove the people inside the spa so they could install the equipment, but they have yet to publicly describe the ruse.
Once inside, Jupiter detectives realized the massage parlor had its own surveillance cameras operating. They asked a judge’s permission to seize the cameras, citing the probability that they contained additional evidence.
Kraft’s lawyers may want to examine those recordings as they search for flaws and inconsistencies in the police investigation.
Those close to Kraft say he dreads nothing more than video of him behind closed doors in the spa becoming public. He already faces the prospect of the episode remaining the stuff of lore on Florida’s coast, where tourists last week continued to peer in the windows of the now-shuttered spa, and across the country as the NFL weighs possible disciplinary action against him.
“This place is a classic,’’ said Willy Weed, a former Massachusetts court officer who retired to nearby Stuart, Fla., as he posed for pictures with a friend from Quincy in front of the alleged brothel. “The No. 1 owner of the No. 1 football team in America was right here.’’
Kraft’s lawyers have asked a judge to seal the video recordings, a challenge that became more difficult when numerous media outlets last week objected to the request.
By all accounts, Kraft would not serve a day in jail if he were convicted. But as he fights to restore his reputation, he considers the recordings so crucial that his lawyers have made clear that they will make them a constitutional issue, perhaps for higher courts.
Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.