WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Prosecutors will not be able to release surveillance videos before the trials of the New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft and 24 other men charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida, a circuit court judge ruled Monday afternoon.
Judge Joseph Marx broadened a previous order from another judge, who last week temporarily blocked the release of videos involving Kraft. Marx’s order covers videos of all 25 men in the case, not just Kraft, and surveillance videos taken last fall outside of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, not only those from January that include Kraft. Still photographs are not covered by the order.
Marx said the videos can be released once one of these conditions occurs: trial juries are sworn in each case; the cases are resolved by plea agreement; the state drops the charges; or at a time when the judge finds the fair trial rights of the men are not at risk.
Marx made the ruling in a hearing in the cases of Hua Zhang, the spa’s owner, and Lei Wang, the spa’s manager who is accused of performing the sex act on Kraft. The women have pleaded not guilty to several charges related to prostitution.
Lawyers for the women said releasing the videos would harm their clients’ right to a fair trial.
During the hearing, Kathleen Phang, a lawyer representing Wang, said that after the state filed a notice 10 days ago that it would release the videos under Florida’s open records law, “41 million Google searches were done” involving the case.
Phang also said the arresting affidavit described what happened “in uncomfortable detail” when Kraft visited the spa two times in January, including on the morning of Jan. 20, the day the Patriots faced the Kansas City Chiefs in a playoff game.
“Why do people need to see the video?” Phang said after the hearing.
Dana McElroy, who represents the 10 media companies, including The New York Times, seeking release of the videos, said the public has a right to see what’s on them.
“All of that has to be balanced against the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” McElroy said. “The burden of proof is on the defense.”
The media companies have 30 days to appeal the ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeals.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanors and has turned the dispute over the videos into a winner-take-all legal fight. He has hired at least two prominent attorneys and a publicist to keep the videos from being released.
One of Kraft’s lawyers, Alex Spiro, was in the courtroom during the Monday hearing.
On Friday, in a county court hearing in Kraft’s case, Spiro had grilled a Jupiter detective for hours about the surveillance videos, which Kraft’s lawyers are trying to get thrown out as evidence.
At the Monday hearing, Spiro said, “If you release the videos, you will allow people to sit at home and click on videos of naked people getting massages.”
He dismissed the idea of using redacted videos. He said Kraft and the other 24 defendants will be presumed guilty because their faces would be blacked out.
Marx ordered the defense attorneys for the Orchids of Asia spa to pay for extracting relevant splices from the five days’ worth of video.