Robert Kraft, the owner of Kraft Foods and the New England Patriots football team, was recently arrested in Florida and charged with solicitation. Now, his defense attorneys are fighting to exclude a potentially incriminating video of him at the massage parlor. Their arguments, however, are surprisingly strong and have to do with Mr. Kraft's Fourth Amendment rights.
Patriots Owner Arrested and Charged with Solicitation
Mr. Kraft was arrested in February 2019, in Florida. He was accused of being one of the numerous people who frequented a massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida, and paid for sexual acts.
Rather than accept a plea deal that would have required him to admit that he would have been guilty, had the case gone to trial, Mr. Kraft and his defense lawyers filed a motion to exclude an important piece of the prosecutor's case – the surveillance video that showed him at the parlor.
Motion to Exclude Evidence Based on “Sneak-and-Peek” Warrant
The crux of the motion to exclude the video evidence is that it was obtained in violation of Mr. Kraft's Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment forbids searches and seizures by law enforcement that are “unreasonable.” Typically, searches are reasonable, and therefore permissible, if they are done under a search warrant.
However, there are numerous different kinds of warrants that police use. Some are more invasive than others. The one that police used to obtain video of Mr. Kraft at the massage parlor was a delayed notice warrant, also known as a sneak-and-peek warrant. These warrants are signed by a judge or magistrate and allow police to execute the warrant without notifying the subjects of the search.
In this situation, police had suspected the Jupiter massage parlor of human trafficking so they obtained a sneak-and-peek warrant. According to the Boston Globe, police executed the sneak-and-peek warrant by acting as if they had received a bomb threat against the parlor. While they were “investigating” the bomb threat, police installed cameras in the parlor.
Those cameras captured the video that Mr. Kraft's lawyers are trying to exclude.
Challenge to “Sneak-and-Peek” Warrants Long Overdue
Sneak-and-peek warrants have long been controversial, and it is about time they were seriously challenged in court. However, the circumstances in Mr. Kraft's case do not present an ideal situation to attack them.
Typically, sneak-and-peek warrants are reserved for serious felony-level offenses and are designed to let police quietly gather information without the subject of their search suspecting anything. Mr. Kraft's lawyers insist because he was only charged with a misdemeanor offense of solicitation, the evidence gathered from the search should be thrown out. Under this argument, Mr. Kraft's alleged crime did not rise to the level of severity necessary for a sneak-and-peek warrant, making it “unreasonable” under the Fourth Amendment.
The big weakness in their argument, of course, is that the warrant was not designed to find evidence of low-level solicitation – it was designed to capture video evidence of human trafficking, a severe criminal offense.
While it is unclear whether the court will agree with Mr. Kraft's argument, he is fighting the charge by pleading not guilty.