With all the buzz about the Democratic primary race eating up the headlines, it’s easy to lose track of some of the other important stories. You know, things like foreign policy, the situation in Venezuela, Social Security imploding and… Bob Kraft’s hooker trial. Yes, attorneys for the New England Patriots owner are still keeping busy in the courtroom and the prosecutors are out on the streets continuing the action as well. Just this week, officers arrested the woman accused of providing Kraft with some bonus services at a massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida. (WPTV News)
A woman accused of performing an illegal sex act on New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at a Jupiter day spa is now under arrest.
58-year-old Shen Mingbi was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on Monday.
According to the Jupiter Police Department, a hidden surveillance camera recorded Mingbi performing a sex act on Kraft at Orchids of Asia Day spa on Jan. 19. Afterward, he paid her and another spa worker, 39-year-old Lei Wang, in cash, police said.
It’s worth noting that the entire premise for the investigation and the arrests were originally focused on rescuing women from the sex trafficking trade. Now they’re arresting the women (and dozens of male customers) on a variety of low-level misdemeanor charges. That’s not to say that there was nothing wrong (or at least illegal) going on, but the story has certainly shifted in focus, hasn’t it?
Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, Kraft’s lawyers are still trying to get the video of him with the alleged prostitutes thrown out. And at least thus far, they seem to be winning the battle. As the AP reported yesterday, the judge in the case has agreed to keep the video out of the media’s hands, at least until the trial begins. But with that victory secured, Team Kraft is pushing to have it permanently destroyed so it can’t even be used at trial.
The New England Patriots owner’s high-profile attorneys went toe-to-toe Friday with some of Palm Beach County’s best, most-experienced prosecutors as they tried to persuade a judge to throw out secretly recorded video that police say shows Kraft paying for sex acts at a massage parlor. His attorneys want the videos sealed and never seen by the public. After six hours in court Friday, they are nowhere near finishing their presentation. It will resume Tuesday.
Kraft’s attorney Alex Spiro questioned lead detective Andrew Sharp for nearly the entire session. They went line-by-line through the Jupiter detective’s application for the search warrant that allowed him to surreptitiously install cameras in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa’s ceiling. They went over the minutia of his investigation, sometimes repetitively, sometimes humorously.
This motion is dragging on for weeks. And we should keep in mind that all of this courtroom drama is unfolding over a case involving a second-degree misdemeanor. Kraft is running up legal fees that will doubtless reach into the millions to avoid a fine that wouldn’t pay one of his attorney’s fees for fifteen minutes and most likely a suspended sentence of some community service. Of course, what he’s really trying to avoid is the headlines that would follow a conviction.
Kraft’s lawyers are arguing that the original warrant allowing the lead detective to install hidden cameras in the ceiling of the massage parlor (done after they planted a fake bomb at the strip mall and hustled all the employees and customers out “for their own safety”) was an overreach and an invasion of the privacy of all concerned. For their part, the prosecutors claim Kraft had little expectation of privacy while patronizing a public business establishment and, even if he did, the defense would need to show that the warrant was illegal before the question could be answered.
It certainly sounds as if the detectives had ample reason to believe that there was prostitution taking place. But if was strictly a solicitation bust, would a judge have approved a warrant for video surveillance rather than sending in some undercover agents to find out if sex was on the menu? When the detectives framed it as possible human trafficking, however, the stakes went up considerably and a warrant was readily granted. Now that no trafficking was found, does that make the warrant retroactively illegitimate?
That’s the question the judge, in this case, will need to decide. If Kraft’s team can pull this off and have the video permanently sealed, most of these cases will probably fall apart. Either way, this court case is going to go down in the history books of trials as one of the more bizarre ones, even by Florida standards.