A judge in Palm Beach County has granted New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s motion to suppress video evidence in his solicitation case.
With the ruling Monday by Judge Leonard Hanser, the case against Kraft and the other men charged with solicitation of prostitution could be effectively dead. The state may appeal the ruling, but this represents a blow to the prosecution’s case against him.
Hanser had last week set a May 21 date for Kraft and his attorneys to appear in court to schedule a trial date. But that appearance is now unlikely to happen.
Kraft’s attorneys had argued the warrant allowing the video included no instructions on how to protect innocent people, that detectives didn’t try to use less intrusive investigative methods, and that the lead detective was reckless in his statements in the warrant.
Judge Hanser agreed in his ruling, writing, “The Court finds that the search warrant does not contain required minimization guidelines, and the minimization techniques employed in this case did not satisfy constitutional requirements … all evidence against the Defendant obtained through and connection with the search warrant is suppressed.”
Hanser added that the police stop of Kraft’s car on Jan. 19 was an unlawful search, and as such, all information obtained from that search is also suppressed.
Kraft was one of almost 300 men who were charged in February with paying for sex acts following police busts at 10 massage parlors that stretched from the Palm Beach area to Orlando. The spa owners and some employees have been charged with felonies.
Hanser had already ruled that the Kraft videos cannot be released publicly until his trial is underway or the case is settled or dismissed.
NFL officials have said they are watching the case, but have not disciplined Kraft. Under league policy, players, owners, coaches and other employees can be punished for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in” the NFL.
According to police records, Kraft, a widower worth $6 billion, was chauffeured to the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Florida, 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.
Hours later, he was in Kansas City for the AFC Championship game, where his Patriots defeated the Chiefs. His team then won the Super Bowl in Atlanta, the Patriots’ sixth NFL championship under his ownership.
Prosecutors have offered to drop the charges if Kraft enters 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. Prosecutors have said the fine and community service are required by law and are not negotiable.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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