A Florida judge on Wednesday stopped prosecutors’ plans to release police surveillance videos of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and 24 other men who are accused of paying for sex at a Florida day spa.
“I don’t want this released until I’ve ruled,” Circuit Court Judge Joseph Marx said in an emergency hearing, according to reports. Marx scheduled a hearing on the matter for April 29, according to ESPN.
The office of Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg had said in court documents earlier Wednesday that Florida law requires it to provide the video to the public and the media as soon as possible rather than wait for a judge to determine whether the videos should be kept under seal while Lei Wang is prosecuted.
Wang allegedly managed the Orchids of Asia Spa in Jupiter, Florida; both she and the alleged owner, Hua Zhang, face a number of charges, including maintaining a house of prostitution. They have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors had planned to release the videos as part of those cases, according to the documents. Local and national media outlets had made public records requests for the videos; prosecutors said obscene images in the videos would be pixelated or blurred if they were released.
Kraft’s attorneys, and attorneys for some of the other men involved in the cases, filed motions Wednesday to stop the release of the videos.
Kraft, who has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor charges of soliciting a prostitute, late last month waived an upcoming hearing and requested a jury trial on the charges, which stem from a sting operation at the massage parlor. Last week, his lawyers argued that release of the video could “destroy” his chances at a fair trial.
“If the affidavit says what happened, what is the interest the public has in seeing it? It’s basically pornography,” Kraft attorney William Burck said in a hearing Friday after local and national media outlets asked for the videos to be released.
Prosecutors contend Kraft was caught on video engaging in a sex act with alleged prostitutes on two occasions in January, including once hours before the AFC championship game Jan. 20 at Kansas City.
Burck wrote that the prosecutors’ plan to release the videos was “an extraordinary and alarming development involving what appears to be gross prosecutorial misconduct,” according to CNBC.
Kraft, 77, has denied the allegations and has declined to accept a plea offer made to him and other men charged as part of the sting, in which prosecutors would drop charges if he admitted a trial would find him guilty and completed community service.
In a written statement last month, Kraft said he is “truly sorry” and mentioned his wife, Myra, who died in 2011.
“Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing,” Kraft said in the statement. “The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years.”
He remains subject to potential discipline by the NFL under a personal conduct policy that applies to owners as well as players and empowers Commissioner Roger Goodell to impose discipline, if he believes it is warranted, even if Kraft is not convicted of a crime.