By Zachary Fagenson
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – Lawyers for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft grilled a Florida police detective on Friday, seeking to persuade a judge to toss out hidden-camera footage that prosecutors say shows the 77-year-old soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor.
“We think the whole warrant is unlawful,” defense attorney Jack Goldberger told Judge Leonard Hanser in Palm Beach County court near the start of a multiday hearing scheduled to resume on Tuesday.
Prosecutors responded that Kraft cannot challenge the video’s legality because he could not have had any expectation of privacy in the first place.
“An individual who is in a business establishment with no ties to that establishment, much less there to engage in a crime, has no expectation of privacy,” Assistant State’s Attorney Greg Kridos said.
The video could be key evidence against the billionaire owner of the reigning Super Bowl champions, who faces two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Spa in Jupiter, Florida, along with some two dozen other men.
Kraft’s high-powered legal team is fresh off a win on Tuesday, when they successfully persuaded Hanser to temporarily block prosecutors from releasing the hidden-camera footage to media outlets, which had requested copies under the state’s robust open records law.
Kraft, who has owned the Patriots since 1994, pleaded not guilty, but has issued a public apology for his actions.
His attorneys have argued that the surreptitious videotaping of customers, including Kraft, inside a massage parlor was governmental overreach and the result of an illegally obtained search warrant.
The warrant, Kraft’s lawyers claim, was secured under false pretenses because the application was misleading. Among other alleged flaws, they said, police cited human trafficking as a potential crime in their application but prosecutors have since acknowledged that the investigation yielded no evidence of trafficking.
At Friday’s hearing, Alex Spiro, one of Kraft’s lawyers, pressed that argument. He spent hours challenging the lead detective, Andrew Sharp, on precisely what he wrote in the warrant affidavit.
Kraft is accused of visiting the day spa twice in January, including on the morning of the day the Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to earn a Super Bowl berth. Two weeks later, the team won its sixth championship under Kraft’s ownership.
(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson, writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)