Florida prosecutors announced plans to release police surveillance videos of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the 24 other people charged with paying for sex despite legal challenges to withhold the video from the public. A ruling issued on Wednesday afternoon stopped the release before it could happen.
Kraft and a John Doe filed a motion to intervene and block the release of the footage and a judge ordered that the state may not release the evidence until there's a hearing. Kraft's attorneys are now accusing the Palm Beach County state attorney's office of "prosecutorial misconduct," saying that they broke a promise made Friday not to release the evidence until a judge weighs in on the matter, according to ESPN's T.J. Quinn.
Before the block, prosecutors said Wednesday morning they would release the footage through the cases of two women accused of owning and managing the alleged spa the men visited. Under Florida law, the Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s office said it did not have to wait for a judge to decide whether the video should be kept under seal while Lei Wang is prosecuted as the alleged manager of the Orchids of Asia Spa in Jupiter, Fla. and Hua Zhang as the owner.
Both Kraft and Wang’s attorney had previously requested that the videos be barred from release while their cases are pending. The prosecutors office said it is obligated to provide the video to the public and the media now as it is prevalent to the Wang's ongoing trial.
In court documents obtained by The Boston Globe, Aronberg’s office wrote Wednesday, “as the custodian of the records, cannot delay the release of records to allow a person to raise a constitutional challenge to the release of the documents. The Public Records Act does not allow a custodian to delay the production of records to allow the resolution of a constitutional challenge to the release of the documents.”
A hearing on Wang's request is set for May 17, but the prosecutors office is unwilling to wait until then.
Kraft, 77, was charged with two separate misdemeanor counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution stemming from January visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa & Massage in Jupiter, Fla. Authorities said they have Kraft on tape at the spa from the morning of and day before January's AFC Championship Game. A spokesperson for Kraft denied his participation in the alleged incident, and Kraft has pleaded not guilty to the charges despite being offered a plea deal as a first-time offender. Because the deal requires an admission of guilt, Kraft is reportedly expected to reject it.
Kraft's attorneys filed court paperwork in late March asking that the evidence, including videos of sex acts, not be publicly released. Kraft's attorney, William Burck, said in a statement to ESPN that "there was no human trafficking and law enforcement knows it."
The longtime Patriots ownermade his first public statement about the charges on March 23, saying he is "truly sorry." Kraft released a statement through a spokesperson when he was initially charged and said, "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting any further."
Kraft's arraignment was scheduled for March 28 but he waived it and requested a trial by jury instead.