WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS/AP) — Florida prosecutors said Monday that they will not appeal a court ruling throwing out video recordings allegedly showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft paying for massage parlor sex acts, making it likely that misdemeanor charges against him and other customers will be dropped.
Prosecutors decided that if they challenged last month’s Florida 4th District Court of Appeal decision to the state Supreme Court and lost, it could have “broader, negative implications” on future law enforcement investigations, The Florida Attorney General’s Office said.
The 4th District ruling found that Jupiter police violated the rights of Kraft and the others when they secretly installed video cameras inside massage rooms at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in early 2019 and banned their use at trial.
“Based on that analysis and after consulting with the prosecuting state attorney’s office, the decision was made not to seek further discretionary review,” attorney general spokeswoman Kylie Mason said in an email to The Associated Press.
The state’s decision means the charges against Kraft and about 20 other men will likely be dismissed. The recordings, which have not been made public, are the only known evidence that the men paid for sex.
Felony charges against the Orchids of Asia spa owners and employees might proceed as there is other evidence against them, such as financial records.
Kraft pleaded not guilty to two charges of soliciting a prostitute in February 2019. He faced a year in jail and a $5,000 fine if convicted on both counts.
According to police records, Kraft was chauffeured to the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter on the evening of Jan. 19, where officers secretly recorded him engaging in a sex act with two women and then handing over an undetermined amount of cash.
Investigators said Kraft returned 17 hours later and was again videotaped engaging in sex acts with a woman before paying with a $100 bill and another bill, police said.
Just hours later, Kraft was in Kansas City for the AFC Championship game, where his Patriots beat the Chiefs. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl in Atlanta, the team’s sixth championship under Kraft’s ownership.
Prosecutors offered to drop the original charges if Kraft entered a diversion program for first-time offenders, as some others charged have. That would include an admission he would be found guilty if the case went to trial, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and attendance in a class on the dangers of prostitution and its connection to human trafficking.
When authorities announced the bust and charges against Kraft and two dozen other men, they said it was part of an investigation into possible human trafficking. But prosecutors later said in court that they concluded there was no evidence of human trafficking in the Jupiter spa.
Judge Leonard Hanser struck a major blow to the prosecution’s case when he ruled in May 2019 that prosecution could not use video from inside the massage parlor in court. Hanser said Jupiter police detectives and the judge who issued the search warrant allowing the secret installation of cameras at the spa did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of other customers, some of whom only received legal massages.
A federal appeals court ruled in August 2020 that police violated the rights of Kraft and others with the videos.
Lawyers for Kraft filed a motion immediately after Hanser’s decision to try and prevent the video from ever being released. Public records law in Florida gives the media access to all records and evidence in court cases.
Kraft could face disciplinary action from the NFL. The league said in a statement after the charges were announced that it “will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)