A Florida judge on Monday handed New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft a major victory and barred prosecutors from using as evidence videos they say show Kraft getting sexually services in successive days inside a Florida massage parlor.
The videos are the key — and potentially only — pieces of evidence that Palm Beach County prosecutors have against Kraft to sustain their charges of soliciting prostitution.
The judge also suppressed information that was gathered when a police officer stopped Kraft's vehicle in January, because the evidence had been collected based on the warrant he deemed unlawful. Before an officer had stopped his car, law enforcement hadn't identified the man in the video as Kraft.
Judge Leonard Hanser agreed with arguments by Kraft's high-powered legal team that Kraft had an expectation of privacy when he went to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.
"The Court finds it clear that he had a reasonable subjective expectation of privacy, as would anyone seeking a private massage in a commercial or professional setting and that the activity in that room would remain private," Judge Leonard Hanser said in his ruling.
Hanser went on to elaborate that video surveillance of the lobby and front desk are acceptable as they are public areas of the spa "where a client would have a very low expectation of privacy."
Hanser also put forth the argument that the search warrant did little to minimize the impact of the video surveillance on female clients, given that the assertions of illegal activity in the warrant only described acts performed on males.
The judge asserted that there were not enough guidelines given to those monitoring the surveillance around how to limit the viewing of the recordings, especially in regard to those not committing illegal acts.
Kraft is one of two dozen men charged in similar cases tied to the spa, among them John Paul Havens, the former president of Citigroup. Havens has pleaded not guilty, according to his lawyer, Bruce Zimet.
Kraft pleaded not guilty to two counts of soliciting prostitution.
This ruling could have huge implications for the pending cases and could cripple the prosecution's case against other men charged in the case.
It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors plan to appeal this ruling. A representative for the state's attorney said Florida will be reviewing the judge's order at this point.