After Fumble on the Fourth, Prosecutors Punt on Kraft SpaGate Case

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Florida prosecutors dropped both charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for solicitation of prostitution on Thursday.

This decision to discontinue the case came on the heels of a Florida appeals court decision to exclude video evidence obtained in the course of a sweeping police sting operation involving a Florida massage parlor. Without this video evidence, prosecutors lacked any compelling case against Kraft and felt obligated to dismiss all charges against him. Indeed, in their nolle prosse filing with the Palm Beach County Court, prosecutors acknowledged that "Although there was probable cause to make an arrest, the evidence cannot prove all the legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution." State Attorney Dave Aronberg elaborated on this in a press conference Thursday, stating that without this crucial evidence, prosecutors "cannot move forward with our prosecutions and thus we are ethically compelled to drop the cases against all the defendants."

As previously reported, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal decision to exclude the video surveillance arguably expanded Florida’s privacy protections, imposing "minimization requirements" on police video surveillance. While such requirements had previously been imposed on video surveillance operations in other jurisdictions, this decision marked the first time that such requirements were extended to video surveillance operations in Florida.

In reaching its decision to exclude the video surveillance obtained by the police sting operation in Kraft’s case, the appeals court noted that video surveillance is subject to heightened scrutiny, citing Florida’s statute prohibiting “video voyeurism."The appeals court cited extensively from other jurisdictions that had adopted minimization requirements for police surveillance, including the 1990 Mesa-Rincon case decided by Tenth Circuit. The appeals court held that the police were on notice of their obligation to implement minimization techniques, as evidenced by the police officer’s citation to the Mesa-Rincon case in his warrant application. In the end, the appeals court explicitly adopted police video surveillance minimization requirements for purposes of Florida law.

On review of the call on the field, the appeals court ruled that minimization efforts were required and that the police failed to use minimization in their surveillance, affirming excluding the video evidence and setting the prosecutors back on the Fourth. Without the video surveillance allowed into evidence, prosecutors were forced to punt and drop their charges.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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