Robert Kraft’s spa video appeal sparks national debate over privacy

Robert Kraft's spa video appeal sparks national debate over privacy


New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft still faces prostitution charges nearly a year after he was arrested in a sweeping three-county sex-for-pay probe that involved police video recording hundreds of alleged sex acts by licensed massage workers.  

Initially announced as a potential human sex-trafficking investigation — assertions authorities later backed away from — the day spa crackdowns sparked a national debate over privacy rights and the government’s ability to secretly video record citizens, while in pursuit of criminal charges.   

Ultimately, prosecutors only leveled human trafficking charges against one spa operator in Vero Beach, Florida as part of a felony racketeering charge.

Jupiter (Florida) Police Department’s months-long surveillance of Orchids of Asia, a storefront spa Kraft, 78, visited twice, coincided with similar investigations revealed Feb. 19, 2019 by Martin and Indian River counties’ law enforcement agencies.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft celebrates Jan. 21, 2018, after the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA.

The investigations culminated in the arrests of spa owners and workers, nearly 300 male clients and shuttered 10 massage businesses.

MOREHidden cameras, sex-for-cash & trash forages: How police solved Florida sex-trafficking cases

MORE: Who are the 264 men arrested in the February day spa crackdown?

Since then, 112 men in Martin and Indian River counties who faced misdemeanor prostitution charges opted to enter a pretrial diversion program, records show. Prosecutors in Palm Beach County said they were unable to confirm how many of the 25 spa customers arrested agreed to accept diversion deals. 

The diversion program required paying $350 in investigation costs and attending a class on the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking, according to Assistant State Attorney Nirlaine Smartt. When completed, charges are dropped.  

Police surveillance

The privacy issues, as they relate to the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, have attracted national defense attorney organizations and renowned legal experts rallying to support Kraft’s protracted legal battle.

Ronald Goldstock

Two of those experts, Stephen A. Saltzburg, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, along with New York University School of Law Professor Ronald Goldstock, authored a legal brief critical of Jupiter police’s use of covert cameras and cautioned against “wanton” government intrusion that may diminish privacy rights.  

“We feel the issues are constitutionally significant and extend well beyond one investigation or one defendant, but could impact the rights of all Floridians,” Goldstock said via email.

The formidable fight Kraft’s lawyers have waged against two misdemeanor counts filed against him resulted in a May court ruling that suppressed video evidence police recorded at Orchids of Asia during five days as part of a sneak-and-peak warrant approved by a judge.

MORE: NE Patriots owner Robert Kraft sues prosecutors for records in sex spa case

Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser threw out the videos in part for concluding Jupiter police failed to meet minimization guidelines required to avoid officers taping activities not related to crimes.


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