FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Lawyers for the state of Florida have backed down from a recent claim that New England Patriots football team owner Robert Kraft committed a felony prostitution offense a year ago.
In a court filing Thursday night, Florida prosecutors revised their position in an appeal concerning video evidence in the high-profile case arising from a massage parlor sex sting.
Kraft, 78, remains charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution. Police said the part-time Palm Beach resident was caught on a secret camera paying for sex acts on separate days.
A county judge has ruled prosecutors can’t use the videos because Jupiter police used an unlawful warrant when they recorded Kraft and other people at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
But the state is challenging the court order that effectively torpedoed their case, contending that the “sneak-and-peek” warrant did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
In a Dec. 17 pleading — now stricken from the docket — the Attorney General’s office took issue with the Kraft legal team’s assertions that the police investigation went overboard in targeting low-level misdemeanor crimes.
The state wrote that felony charges were brought against the spa owner and manager, adding that “any person who purchased prostitution services on multiple days, as Mr. Kraft did, committed a felony.”
But the 4th District Court of Appeal then ordered the state to edit its arguments from 28 pages to 15 pages, to comply with page limit rules.
In its new filing, the Attorney General’s Office deleted the reference to Kraft and a felony, citing only that “the Legislature has determined that Solicitation of Prostitution may itself constitute a felony in some circumstances.”
The office, which also edited other portions to abide by the allowable page count, has said it will not comment on pending litigation.
The next step in the appeals process is likely a hearing where the attorneys can make arguments in person before a three-judge panel. Both sides have requested this.
In a pleading Dec. 23, Kraft’s attorneys cited two older federal court cases to make the point that “hidden video surveillance” by law enforcement “raises the spectre of the Orwellian state.”
“How this Court resolves these appeals will carry profound import throughout Florida and beyond,” wrote Kraft lawyer Frank Shepherd. “This Court will now decide, among other things, whether to follow the strict limits other courts have imposed on when and how such surveillance may be deployed by law enforcement.”