Kraft Case Typifies Reluctance To Hold Clients of Sex Workers Accountable

Ed. Note: Charges dropped on Sept. 24.

So it looks like Robert K. Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, will beat charges of soliciting prostitution in Jupiter, FL.

Surprise!

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Florida effectively continues a long tradition of holding prostitutes (mainly females) – and not johns (mainly males) – responsible for violating state prostitution laws.

A three-judge appellate panel upheld the lower court’s suppression of videotape evidence in Kraft’s case, which likely will require prosecutors to drop the case.Police installed videotape surveillance equipment at Orchids of Asia Day Spa, a brothel advertising massage services,  and videotaped Kraft on two occasions in February 2019 allegedly procuring illegal sexual activity.  He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg charged four female spa employees, including the manager, with various felony charges that carry potentially years in prison. Aronberg said human trafficking is “modern day slavery” and “evil in our midst.”

Legitimate Expectation of Privacy?

The appellate panel ruled the video recording of Kraft was “extreme” and invaded Kraft’s “legitimate expectation of privacy.” The panel compared the videotaping of massage rooms at the spa to voyeurism and using video cameras in merchant dressing rooms and restrooms. The panel rejected the state’s argument that Kraft forfeited his right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment by engaging in criminal behavior, stating privacy rights are almost always asserted by defendants in criminal cases.


There are no laws in Florida requiring police to “minimize” their surveillance effort to prevent video recording of innocent bystanders. However, the panel said it was “unacceptable” that police warrants in Kraft’s case lacked “specific written parameters … and law enforcement did not actually employ sufficient minimization techniques when monitoring the video or deciding what to record.” 

Investigation

Detectives obtained a warrant to videotape the spa after research on websites revealed ads by the spa indicating female employees would manually manipulate male genitals for $25.

Police watched the spa for several days and saw more than 100 men enter but few women.

An inspector with the Florida Department of Health then conducted an annual inspection and noted rooms contained beds, clothing and other personal items the manager tried to cover up with a blanket.

Police pulled over four men seen leaving the spa and each one admitted they had paid a fee to receive manual stimulation at the end of the massage.

The court granted police a warrant to install secret, non-audio video cameras in the spa and to monitor and record the video. The warrant prohibited cameras in areas where prostitution was not suspected, such as the kitchen, bathroom, and personal bedrooms.

Police recorded 25 spa customers pay for sexual services. Ten more customers were suspected to have paid for sex, but the offenses could not be confirmed due to dim lighting. Four customers, including two women, were recorded who did not engage in illegal activity.

Predictably, Kraft did not lack for legal representation. He was represented by Derek L. Shaffer, William A. Burck, and Sandra Moser of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, Washington, D.C., and Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, New York, NY, Pro Hac Vice; and Frank A. Shepherd of GrayRobinson, P.A., Miami.

It seems likely they charged more than $25.

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