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Police used fake bomb threat to install cameras in Robert Kraft sex spa case

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 4/3/2019 A.J. Perez
FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Atlanta. Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor.  Jupiter police told reporters Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, that the 77-year-old Kraft has not been arrested.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) © (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Atlanta. Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor. Jupiter police told reporters Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, that the 77-year-old Kraft has not been arrested. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Police used a fake bomb threat to clear out a Florida spa and install cameras as part of a prostitution investigation before New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others allegedly visited, according to a court filing made public Wednesday. 

Kraft’s attorneys wrote in an expanded motion to suppress the video footage that Jupiter Police Department (JPD) officers “caused a phony ‘suspicious package’ warning to be issued for the Spa in order to force an evacuation so the JPD could install hidden cameras inside several of its private massage rooms, as well as in the Spa’s lobby.”

The newest motion again alleges police used "allusions to human trafficking" to secure the warrant. 

“This ruse concealed the execution of the Warrant from the Spa, its employees, and its customers, none of whom received notice of the issuance of the Warrant or the placement of hidden video cameras on Spa premises,” Jack Goldberger, Kraft’s Florida-based attorney, wrote. 

Kraft was one of 24 men charged with soliciting prostitution over alleged visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter. Kraft allegedly visited the spa on consecutive days, the second time before the Patriots faced the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game Jan. 20. 

He has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor solicitation charges and asked for a jury trial. 

The sneak-and-peek search warrant application, which USA TODAY Sports obtained last week, was attached to the filing. The warrant, officially known as a delayed notice warrant, was approved by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Howard Coates on Jan. 15. 

Police used the bomb threat to install the cameras Jan. 18, according to the latest filing by Kraft’s attorneys. The warrant approved by Judge Coates limited the video surveillance operation to five days. 

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Delayed notice warrants can be legally obtained under the Patriot Act that became federal law after 9/11. There are limitations, however, that constrain such warrants to instances when other less-intrusive investigative techniques failed to obtain necessary evidence of a crime. 

The filing also took issue with the inspections of the spa conducted by Florida Department of Health specialist Karen Herzog, whose reports have been included in other warrants issued around the state as part of the prostitution sting that led to more than 300 arrests. 

Jupiter police detective Andrew Sharp wrote in the warrant application that “Herzog advised it appeared as though the female employees were living there as there were two rooms with beds, including sheets and pillows.” 

However, the report, obtained by USA TODAY Sports from Herzog's November 2018 visit to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, had "N/A" attached to the question "is this establishment being used as a principle domicile?" The only item Herzog noted was that there were "some tables showing wear and tear." Two photos of the inside of a refrigerator, which showed bottled water and ranch dressing among its contents, were attached to the report.

“Sharp made his reckless leap over to human trafficking based on supposed ‘evidence’ consisting of such things as observing a refrigerator stocked with food, two beds, and clothing‐all of which may be routinely observed at any number of places of employment, including law offices, for reasons having nothing to do with human trafficking,” Goldberger wrote.

“It strains credulity, however, to believe that Herzog would have observed such items and linked them to trafficking but somehow omitted those pictures from her report, choosing instead to include pictures of an open refrigerator and freezer.”

The other main argument Kraft’s lawyers made in their latest motion to suppress video evidence involved the Jan. 20 traffic stop after Kraft allegedly exited the spa. That stop had the “sole purpose of identifying Mr. Kraft – a passenger in the car – in the absence of any traffic violation or reasonable suspicion of one by the driver.”

Lower in the 92-page filing, there was a preview of another argument: there was no explicit sex act demanded thus no solicitation occurred. 

According to the charging documents, Kraft gave the spa employees money, but there's no mention of Kraft talking to the employees. The warrant issued by the judge did not allow for audio recording. 

“In sum, the worst offenses that jump out from this record are not those committed by one or another masseuse or patron whose massage allegedly included (a) consensual sexual act,” Goldberger wrote. “Far more worrisome than any alleged misdemeanor are the astonishing lengths to which law enforcement went in order to orchestrate a calculated, systematic campaign to blow past established constitutional limits.” 

Follow A.J. Perez on Twitter @byajperez

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Police used fake bomb threat to install cameras in Robert Kraft sex spa case

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