Palm Beach County prosecutors will not be allowed to use video evidence of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly receiving sex acts inside a Jupiter massage parlor. On Monday, a judge granted Kraft's motion to suppress the secretly-recorded surveillance video in his solicitation case, dishing a major blow to prosecutors in the case.
Kraft is one of 25 men charged with solicitation after Jupiter detectives began investigation an alleged prostitution ring inside the now infamous Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Using a 'sneak-and-peek' warrant, detectives planted hidden cameras inside massage rooms at the spa.
Arrest paperwork shows explicit sex acts were caught on camera between the 'johns' and female massage therapists, in exchange for money.
Kraft pleaded not guilty to both solicitation charges lodged against him by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office. A jury trial is currently set for later this month.
Judge Leonard Hanser sided with Kraft's defense counsel and agreed the Boston billionaire had a "reasonable, subjective expectation of privacy" when he entered the spa.
The court also found that detectives did not do enough to minimize or protect innocent people who visited the parlor for legitimate massages.
The judge also suppressed all evidence obtained during the traffic stop which helped identify Kraft after the first alleged sex act occurred. Hanser ruled that the evidence obtained during the traffic stop were "fruits of an unlawful search".
It is unclear how prosecutors will move forward in this case, but they can appeal the order.
That is what happened in Martin County, when a judge recently made a similar ruling, throwing out secretly recorded surveillance video in several cases there on grounds of similar "minimization" issues.
More than 300 people (including Kraft) were charged last February, in a coordinate prostitution sweep involving law enforcement agencies in Palm Beach, Martin and Indian River counties. Defendants there have been making similar arguments before the court, hoping to get video evidence thrown out in their cases on ground the search warrant which helped obtain the video evidence was illegal.
It's also unclear how the ruling might affect other defendants in Palm Beach County, including the four women accused of running the prostitution ring out of Orchids of Asia.
On Monday, in addition to Hanser's order, the Jupiter Police Department released hundreds of pages of evidence Monday into the investigation of alleged prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
Records released show that as a result of the investigation, law enforcement seized and deposited more than $500,000 into a Wells Fargo bank account. Officials seized all of those funds after executing search warrants in Jupiter as well as Martin County and Orange County.
A filing packet presented to the State Attorney's Office shows "covert surveillance video" and body worn camera videos are the main pieces of evidence gathered against Kraft. It also lists Jupiter Police officers as the main witnesses who could testify against him.
Without the video evidence, prosecutors will be forced to heavily rely on officer testimony if Kraft's trial were to move forward.
Law enforcement collected an array of evidence against Hua Zhang and Lei Wang, two of the alleged "madams" in the case. The list of evidence spans several pages for both, and includes "$140,000 in US currency," "documents obtained from trash pull," "paper napkins with seminal fluid" and receipts to the business.
Both Zhang and Wang are facing multiple felonies as a result of the investigation.
Records released Monday also show Zhang bought the spa in 2009. According to Zhang's son, she purchased the day spa after working there as an employee.
Several officers were involved "tactical ruse" used to install the covert surveillance cameras used in the "sneak and peek" warrant on Jan. 17, 2019. Jupiter Police borrowed the hidden cameras from the Martin County Sheriff's Office, and a deputy also helped with their installation.
The night that investigators installed the cameras at the day spa, no one came out of the spa until after Hua Zhang and Lei Wang drove into the parking lot. Wang told officers that she was watching the spa through her security cameras being transmitted on her cellphone and that there were two women inside. She claimed that she was coming from a party to pick them up, despite that "she was dressed in a grey robe."
Also, Wang's vehicle, a white Mercedes, "was under surveillance and had come from her residence in Hobe Sound." Law enforcement was on-scene at the spa the night the hidden cameras were installed from 11 p.m. until 1:30 a.m.
The hidden cameras were removed five days later, on Jan. 22. It's unclear how police removed the cameras after having to create a "tactical ruse" to install them in the first place.
Officials tell WPTV that the Jupiter Police Dept. is planning to release several hundred photos from the investigation. Those pictures are still under review, but they are hoping to release them later this week.