New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is making headlines again following charges for soliciting another to commit prostitution at the Orchids of Asia Day spa in Florida. This time around, Kraft’s lawyers are seeking to work around Florida’s public records Law and block video recordings showing Kraft engaging in sexual acts at the parlor.
Kraft is currently being charged on two misdemeanor counts with the trial well under way, which includes 24 other men accused of soliciting prostitution at the spa. Out of those 24 men, lawyers representing 14 of them are asking the judge overseeing the case to withhold records as the investigation is still ongoing.
“The video is clearly a public record,” said President of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, Barbara Petersen. “I thinking they’re misreading Florida’s public records law,”
Currently, Florida Sunshine Law assumes all records are subject to disclosure unless publicly exempt. Within the law, public records is defined to mean all materials regardless of physical form. In other words, mugshots, arrest records, and other crime reports are all presumed to be public disclosure.
Due to the state’s widely easy access to arrest reports and police logs, many of the stories stemming from the Sunshine State have garnered particular fame under the #FloridaMan hashtag.
“There is a difference under our law between information that is exempt from public disclosure, and information that is confidential and exempt. Information that is confidential and exempt, can be disclosed only as specified in the exemption,” added Petersen.
Furthermore, lawyers argue that releasing the video in question would violate records law as it has yet to be released to the defendants as part of the “discovery process,” where both sides exchange evidence before trial. Currently, Florida law says that most evidence collected in criminal cases is made public “during discovery with some exceptions.”
However, Section 119.071(2)(c) of Florida Sunshine states that criminal investigative and criminal investigative information is exempt from disclosure, not confidential and exempt, and so the law enforcement agency can release the video if it so chooses.
“If information is exempt, there is discretion on the part of the custodial to disclose the information,” said Petersen.
Florida’s records law is one of the oldest and also strongest in terms of enforcement. However, the state lacks an appeals process, which forces many requesters to file lawsuits to clear records disputes. Despite the state’s presumption for transparency, Florida holds over 1,000 exemptions blocking access to specific records.
Daniel Goldberg, lead litigation counsel for Kraft and the New England Patriots didn’t respond to a request for comment.
You can read Kraft’s full arrest notice released by the Office of State Attorney Dave Aronberg embedded below.
Image via Wikimedia Commons