By AARON KATERSKY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Surveillance video of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at a massage parlor will remain out of public view because police violated his rights, a Florida appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals said a trial court properly suppressed the video evidence.
“We find the trial courts properly concluded that the criminal defendants had standing to challenge the video surveillance and that total suppression of the video recordings was constitutionally warranted,” the appellate judges said.
Kraft and two dozen others were charged in 2019 with solicitation of prostitution after they were secretly recorded entering a Jupiter, Florida, day spa and receiving services.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty, but issued a public apology.
Prosecutors can appeal the ruling to Florida’s Supreme Court, but if it stands they could be forced to drop the misdemeanor charges for lack of evidence.
Kraft and the other defendants successfully argued their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches were violated.
“The spa-client defendants in all of these cases had a subjective and objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the massage parlor rooms,” the appellate judges said.
Using a phony bomb threat to clear the building, police installed hidden cameras in four of the massage rooms and in the lobby of the Orchids of Asia spa.
Three detectives monitored and recorded video from the hidden cameras over five days. The cameras recorded video continuously, but Jupiter detectives monitored the video feeds only during business hours.
The detectives toggled between the video feeds whenever they thought criminal conduct was imminent. They focused on the end of the massages because they said any sexual conduct typically occurred at that point. In all, police recorded 25 spa customers paying for sexual services.
Kraft was filmed visiting the spa on two occasions and was stopped by the police while driving away after his second visit. He was later charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution.
“The type of law enforcement surveillance utilized in these cases is extreme. While there will be situations which may warrant the use of the techniques at issue, the strict Fourth Amendment safeguards developed over the past few decades must be observed,” the judges ruled.
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