Kraft defense attorneys try to poke holes in prosecution’s case
The Florida state health inspector who inspected the spa at the center of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s misdemeanor prostitution solicitation case testified Tuesday as a hearing on Kraft’s motion to suppress video evidence continued into a second day.
Karen Herzog, the inspector who conducted an onsite review of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla. in November at the request of law enforcement, testified Tuesday in Palm Beach County that she initially entered “N/A” for “not applicable” on a state form in response to a question about whether there were signs anyone was living at the spa.
But at the end of January 2019, days after Jupiter police got a warrant to secretly equip the spa with cameras that allegedly captured Kraft and 24 other men paying for sex acts inside, Herzog changed her answer to the question on the November report, from N/A to the equal sign followed by D, meaning “deficiency” because there were signs of people living there, she testified Tuesday.
Kraft, 77, has denied engaging in criminal activity, pleaded not guilty, and requested a jury trial. In his pending motion to toss the video evidence, his lawyers are asserting that Jupiter police lied about suspected human trafficking at the spa to get their warrant to install the cameras.
Prosecutors initially linked to the case to human trafficking after Kraft and the other men were charged but have since said they’re not alleging human trafficking as part of the Orchids probe.
Evidence that spa workers are living on a premises could suggest the business is a front for prostitution or human trafficking, law enforcement officials contend.
On the stand Tuesday, Herzog testified that she initially entered “N/A” during her November report of the Orchids inspection because she feared for her safety inside the business, which was populated at the time by three licensed female massage therapists, including the manager.
“I was afraid that if [the manager] saw the ‘yes’ [for the domicile question] it would create . . . ” Herzog testified, momentarily pausing on the stand.
“Drama?” Kraft attorney William Burck asked.
“I was concerned for my safety,” Herzog said, even though Jupiter police had arranged to be outside during the inspection. Herzog said Tuesday that while that had been the plan, she didn’t see police outside as she entered the spa.
Herzog said her management asked her to make the change to her report.
Burck questioned Herzog for more than 90 minutes before a brief recess was called. Prosecutors continued questioning Herzog after the break.
When Herzog visited the spa last November, she noted that beds were visible in two rooms, as well as a fully stocked refrigerator and other items, according to legal filings and her testimony Tuesday.
Kraft’s lawyers have said in prior court filings that Jupiter police Detective Andrew Sharp “admits he directed [Herzog] to conduct an inspection of the Spa, making her an agent of the police and rendering her pretextual search illegal” without a warrant.
The defense attorneys also claimed police statements attributed to Herzog in their warrant application “directly contradict what Ms. Herzog reported regarding her inspection—via a report that she signed and affirmed was ‘true and correct to the best of her knowledge.’ The Defendant will be able to prove up at a hearing these and several other critical misrepresentations made by the affiant.”
Sharp testified Friday and is expected to return to the stand at some point, with the motion-to-suppress hearing slated to continue Wednesday. The motion, if successful, would bar prosecutors from showing the video footage to jurors at trial, severely hampering the government’s case against Kraft.
On Friday, during the first day of the hearing on Kraft’s motion, Hanser said he would watch the videos later in his chambers as he pondered whether Jupiter police had properly obtained the “sneak and peek” search warrant that led to the installation of the secret cameras.
Sharp underwent a detailed questioning by Kraft’s legal team last Friday.
Alex Spiro, one of Kraft’s four lawyers, spent more than 4½ hours in the small, packed courtroom trying to portray Sharp as so inexperienced and ill-prepared that he submitted a legally flawed affidavit seeking the warrant for covert video surveillance at the spa.
Hanser issued his order without watching the video.
Hanser has said he prefers to issue written rulings instead of speaking about them from the bench.
Kraft’s defense also may call an expert witness on police procedures.