Patriots owner Robert Kraft wants court to throw out day spa surveillance video | TribLIVE.com
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft wants court to throw out day spa surveillance video

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AP
Attorneys for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft want a Florida judge to block prosecutors from using secretly taken video that police say shows him engaging in paid sex acts with female massage parlor employees. Kraft’s attorneys challenged in court documents filed Thursday, March 28, 2019, the warrant allowing Jupiter police officers to hide video cameras in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Attorneys for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have filed a court motion seeking to throw out surveillance video that allegedly shows him paying for sex acts at a Jupiter day spa.

The motion also asks the court to rule that a traffic stop of Kraft’s Bentley after he visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa on Jan. 19 was unlawful.

Kraft, 77, is one of 24 men facing misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charges in connection with the storefront day spa and a monthslong, multicounty investigation that authorities have said is connected to an international human-trafficking operation, extending to China from Florida.

Kraft’s attorneys argue that covert video taken inside the spa is “governmental overreach” and adds that law enforcement “had no … justification for going to such extreme, invasive lengths just to investigate run-of-the-mill solicitation.”

The spa’s owner and manager have been in custody since authorities revealed their first arrests in the operation last month. A judge Thursday reduced bail for the manager, Lei Wang of Hobe Sound, and her attorney said he expected her to be released Friday after more than one month in the Palm Beach County Jail.

Circuit Judge Joseph Marx lowered Wang’s bail to $75,000 from $256,000. She faces more than two dozen prostitution-related charges, all but one a misdemeanor.

Paul Petruzzi, Wang’s attorney, said his client has been treated more harshly than other defendants in her position because of the publicity the case has generated by Kraft’s involvement. He asserted that violent criminals regularly receive lower bonds than Wang, 39. The most serious charge Wang faces is deriving support from proceeds of prostitution, a second-degree felony. The other charges she faces are misdemeanors.

A person arrested on the same charges as Wang normally receives a $7,500 bond for the felony and $500 per misdemeanor, Petruzzi said.

Wang’s bond was much higher “because of press conferences where people were jumping to conclusions that weren’t correct,” Petruzzi said.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr and Martin County Sheriff William Snyder held news conferences last month where they said the arrest of dozens of “johns” and several women who allegedly ran the day spas were connected to human trafficking.

“This case just has too many eyes on it, and it’s being made out into something it’s not,” Petruzzi said.

The motion filed by Kraft’s attorneys Thursday also criticizes mention of human trafficking by authorities, stating that “any suggestion” of it was “unfounded and irresponsible.”

Human trafficking is defined as soliciting, recruiting, harboring, transporting or otherwise obtaining another person to exploit him or her for labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation. Authorities say their investigation has found that women came to Florida from China under the guise of having legitimate jobs in the spas, only to be forced to perform sex acts on men. The women often were confined to the spas, eating and sleeping there when they were not working and in some cases forced to surrender their passports.

To date, no one has been charged with human trafficking in the investigation, which spans Palm Beach, Martin, Indian River and Orange counties. Authorities have said building those cases will take time and require the cooperation of the women who were forced to work in the spas.

A shackled Wang sat quietly during Thursday’s hearing. Family and friends of Wang sat quietly, but did not comment after the hearing. Petruzzi said he expects Wang, who has been in custody since Feb. 21, to be freed Friday. She will be kept under house arrest at her home in Hobe Sound was she is released.

If Kraft wasn’t a part of his client’s case, Wang’s arrest “would been treated like a normal case. Probably she would have been offered (pretrial) diversion already. And we all know that.”

Zua Zhang, the owner of Orchids of Asia, is facing similar charges to Wang and is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail in lieu of $278,000 bail. Zhang has been in jail since Feb. 19.

Three men arrested for soliciting prostitution at the Jupiter day spa had hearings Thursday at the North County Courthouse. The men did not appear in person and each of the three cases was reset for a future date.

On Wednesday, Timothy R. Goering, 52, of Jupiter became the first of the 25 Jupiter “johns” to accept an offer from prosecutors to drop the misdemeanor prostitution charge filed against him.

In exchange, Goering admitted that had the case gone to trial, he would have been found guilty. Goering also will perform 100 hours of community service, pay a $5,000 fine and court costs, complete an education class about prostitution and get screened for sexually transmitted diseases.

Prosecutors have given the remaining 24 men until April 5 to accept the deal, said Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County state attorney’s office.

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