The New England Patriots were written off after a couple of December setbacks before a string of victories netted them the ultimate prize in Super Bowl LIII.
The Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, seems to be on his way to a legal parallel to the football team’s story, as Kraft’s lawyers won a major victory Monday to reverse some recent ill fortunes in the courtroom.
Specifically, the video evidence allegedly showing Kraft engaging in a sex act with an employee of the Orchids of Asia day spa in Palm Beach County will not be allowed into court, according to a CBS Sports report.
In April, Kraft’s legal team filed a motion to suppress the evidence and judge Leonard Hanser upheld the legal coach’s challenge.
At issue with the video was the expectation of privacy that customers of a legitimate (i.e. not a front for prostitution) massage parlor have when in a situation where the normal course of receiving service requires clients to remove their clothing.
Kraft’s legal team leader, attorney William Burck, claimed that the warrant for seizure of the surveillance tape did not sufficiently protect Kraft’s Fourth Amendment rights, which specifically state that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
Hanser, in a lengthy court order, agreed.
“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. Consequently, the court grants defendant’s motion to suppress and all evidence against the Defendant obtained through and connection with the search warrant is suppressed,” Hanser wrote.
Hanser also pointed out that Kraft was not the only patron of the day spa, and that all the other patrons had their constitutional rights violated when they too were recorded without their knowledge or consent by police as part of the sting that led to the arrests.
As Hanser continued in his written opinion, “The fact that some totally innocent women and men had their entire lawful time spent in a massage room fully recorded and viewed intermittently by a detective-monitor is unacceptable.”
And as if the touchdown of a ruling that was the motion to suppress wasn’t enough, Kraft even won himself an extra point when Hanser also ruled that the traffic stop on Jan. 19 that led to Kraft’s arrest was itself an unlawful search and seizure, and therefore any evidence collected during that traffic stop is also inadmissible.
The whole situation leaves police and district attorneys in Palm Beach County scrambling, their case against Kraft starting to look more like a three-and-out than a score.
ESPN’s T.J. Quinn pointed out the possibility that the next move for the authorities may be to fall back and punt, leaving Kraft fully exonerated.
Expect Kraft’s attorneys to file a motion to dismiss based on lack of evidence, probably tomorrow. The state can either dismiss charges, appeal the decision or take it to court. But so far they haven’t cited any evidence other than the video surveillance.
— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) May 13, 2019
A motion to dismiss based on lack of evidence would be a decisive victory for Kraft indeed.
But on the other hand, if Kraft thought the courts were bad, now he has to face the extrajudicial hammer of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. As Quinn also pointed out, Goodell could take Kraft’s admission that he does not dispute the facts stated against him, only whether he committed a crime, and use that as grounds for discipline.
If charges are dismissed, how could this affect Kraft w/ NFL? Probably not at all. He has never disputed the facts stated against him, just that he committed a crime. Goodell isn’t bound by what the courts do and Kraft all but admitted there’s video of him receiving “services.”
— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) May 13, 2019
Meanwhile, this ruling also deals a heavy blow to police procedure, as a precedent is set for prostitution sting operations in Florida that denies the police the chance to collect the most direct possible evidence in such cases.
But that’s not Kraft’s problem.
For Patriots owner, the ruling means he’s one step closer to winning a fight off the field that made the Super Bowl look like nothing more than a children’s game played by men.
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