A Florida judge has just cut Patriots owner Robert Kraft a huge break by ordering that a tape purportedly showing the septaugenarian franchise owner engaged in sex acts with massage parlor employees be sealed at least until the start of his trial on misdemeanor solicitation charges, or until a plea deal is reached.
After the tape reportedly leaked ever so briefly online (all traces of the tape were swiftly wiped from the Web), prosecutors handling the case of Orchids of Asia spa owner Hua Zhang and therapist Lei Wang had pushed for the video to be made part of the public record, something the legal team for the two women vociferously opposed. After the tape was leaked, lawyers for the pair called for the police in Jupiter to be held in contempt.
Now the judge in Kraft's case has apparently settled the issue, according to the AP.
Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser accepted arguments by Kraft's attorneys that releasing the video could harm chances for a fair trial on misdemeanor prostitution charges, and ruled that it shouldn't be handed to the news media as a public record until either a jury is seated, a plea agreement is reached or the state drops the case. Kraft has pleaded not guilty.
Kraft was one of dozens of men charged with solicitation after a sex trafficking investigation into the Orchids of Asia massage parlor turned up evidence that the business was operating as a brothel (though no sex trafficking charges were filed in the case).
He was one of several men charged with solicitation after police secretly installed cameras at the Orchids of Asia massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida, in what authorities initially said was an investigation into human trafficking. Prosecutors have since said they found no evidence of trafficking at the spa.
Police say the video shows Kraft and other customers engaged in sexual acts with masseuses at the spa. Separately, Kraft's attorneys are seeking to suppress the video on grounds that it is an invasion of privacy and that the search warrant to install the cameras was obtained using untrue statements indicating that authorities had found potential evidence of human trafficking at the spa.
Reports said the video was being shopped around, though it has yet to surface in any kind of permanent form.
Though, as the Palm Beach Post reminds us, the tape could become part of the public record once Kraft's trial on two misdemeanor solicitation charges begins, or once the issue is resolved.
But for now, the videos will be sealed "to prevent a serious and imminent threat to the administration of justice," Judge Hanser wrote.