Judge accepts destruction of Kraft massage parlor video

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – A video recording of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other men allegedly engaging in sex at a massage parlor will be returned to prosecutors for destruction, a judge ruled Friday of Florida, ending a two-year saga that has tarnished the reputation of one of football’s greatest luminaries.

Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser agreed with prosecutors and Kraft attorneys that the tape given to him before he ruled it inadmissible at trial was not part of the court’s permanent record and will be returned for destruction.

Last year, prosecutors dropped misdemeanor charges against Kraft and nearly two dozen other men after a state appeals court upheld Hanser’s decision in 2019. He determined that the warrant to allow hidden cameras to be installed inside a massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida did not sufficiently protect the privacy of innocent clients who received legal massages. Prosecutors chose not to challenge the ruling in the state’s Supreme Court.

Kraft and the others were indicted in February 2019 after an investigation into possible prostitution at the Jupiter massage parlor. This stemmed from a larger investigation to determine whether Chinese women were sexually trafficked to Florida. It ended without any significant condemnation.

Police said they recorded Kraft, a widower, paying for sex acts at the spa on consecutive days in January 2019, including the morning of the AFC championship game the Patriots won in Kansas City that night. Two weeks later, they won their sixth Super Bowl Championship under his 28-year-old ownership, more than any other team during that time.

Kraft, 80, had pleaded not guilty and his high-priced lawyers led the fight to obtain the evidence against him and the other men were fired. He issued a public apology in 2019 for his conduct, saying he had “hurt and disappointed” his family and Patriots fans. He could still receive a sanction from the National Football League. According to Forbes magazine, Kraft is worth nearly $ 7 billion.

The Patriots declined to comment on Friday. The NFL did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

If Kraft had been convicted, he likely would have received a fine, community service, and other penalties that did not include jail time.

The tapes, which were not made public, were the only known evidence that Kraft and the other men paid for sex at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. When the tapes were excluded from the trial, prosecutors had no choice but to dismiss the charges.

Of the remaining men charged, 19 cases were dropped. Three men went through a pre-judgment diversion program, paying more than $ 5,000 in court costs. One of them pleaded guilty and paid $ 323. Another returned home to Norway.

The Orchids of Asia investigation was part of a larger, multi-country investigation into possible sex trafficking of women to work in massage parlors. Law enforcement officials said that although they suspected several women employees of the salons of being trafficked, none cooperated with prosecutors and no one was charged with trafficking.

Crime charges against Orchids of Asia management were also dropped after the videos were banned.

Hua Zhang, the owner of the Jupiter salon, pleaded guilty last year to felony charges of soliciting another person to prostitute himself and renting a space for prostitution. She was given a one-year probationary period and paid $ 6,600 in court costs and fines.

Lei Wang, the spa manager, pleaded guilty to soliciting another person to engage in prostitution and was sentenced to one year of probation. She paid a fine of $ 5,000.

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AP Sports writer Kyle Hightower of Foxborough, Massachusetts contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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