Florida—yes, that state that often feels as if it’s been included in America just for the jokes, which also might slide into the ocean, aka my home state—does get some things right. Historically, it has one of strongest public record laws in the country. Sure, the legislature loves to poke holes in it year after year, but the state’s policy still provides easy access to a lot of records that citizens and journalists have to sue for in other place. This isn’t to say Florida is a model of well-run government, but at least citizens and journalists have the right to know the sordid details of how their government is screwing them over.
So if you were, say, a billionaire from Massachusetts—a state where even the overhauled public record laws are so bad that newspapers have had to sue to get court records and multiple branches of government remain exempt—you might be surprised to learn that many of the records connected to your soliciting prostitution case are very likely to become public record. And yes, this includes the video that, according to a police affidavit, shows a woman sitting next to you and manipulating your penis.
It’s no surprise that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft would like that video kept out of the public record. Kraft, along with dozens of other men, was charged with soliciting prostitution as the result of a months-long investigation into a local massage parlor, Orchids of Asia Day Spa, as well as other massage parlors on Florida’s Treasure Coast. Today, according to TMZ, lawyers for Kraft and several other men charged in the case filed a request for a protective order to keep the videos from being released. The order, as described by TMZ, would “prevent law enforcement from releasing any evidence gathered in the investigation.” Per the New York Times, the filing adds that the evidence hasn’t yet been produced in discovery (the part of the legal process in which prosecutors are supposed to give defense lawyers their key evidence) and “therefore should remain confidential.”
The Times, in true Times-ian fashion, suggest that Kraft’s lawyers might “be trying to prevent the evidence from leaking and becoming public, which could be embarrassing.” Of course that’s what they’re trying to do! To be blunt about it, the criminal charges against Kraft are two counts of misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Kraft is valued at billions of dollars. He can afford the worst case scenario, and that’s before you factor in that he’s already been offered a plea deal.
What he can’t afford is to be embarrassed. He has, after all, styled himself as quite the leader. He pushed to free Meek Mill. He started a foundation. He once donated $100,000 to an anti-trafficking group. And, oh yeah, under his ownership the once laughable Patriots became one of the greatest sports dynasties in recent history. This case always will be about Kraft minimizing his embarrassment, no matter how suddenly enlightened he and his legal team become about concerns that anti-sex-trafficking stings actually serve as anti-sex-work operations, nothing more or less.
Should Kraft be spared such embarrassment? Right now, that’s for Palm Beach County Judge Frank S. Castor to decide. Ordering police to not release public records isn’t the norm in Florida, but this wouldn’t be the first time a rich person got a more sympathetic version of the criminal justice system than everyone else.
Update (March 21, 2019; 4:48 p.m.): A copy of the motion filed for a protective order is below.