Florida prosecutors on Thursday announced they were dropping misdemeanor charges against Kraft for soliciting prostitution, after a court ruled that the video evidence against him could not be used. The case raises legal issues about privacy rights and policing at a time when police conduct is coming under increased scrutiny. But it is also feeding into an ongoing national dialogue about policing and privilege – who is held accountable and who can escape culpability for their actions.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel said Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg appeared “angry and defiant” in a Zoom session with reporters, and took shots at Kraft’s wealth. “Individuals with significant means have the ability to hire the best lawyers and investigators to dissect every decision point made by law enforcement to find a weak spot and then exploit it to achieve an acquittal or a dismissal,” Aronberg said, explicitly calling out “economic inequities” in the justice system.
The case against Kraft hinged on a video that allegedly showed Kraft paying for a sex act at a Florida day spa in January 2019. Twenty-four other men were also charged with solicitation of prostitution.
But lower court judges, then a Florida Appeals Court, ruled that video evidence of the men must be thrown out because it was obtained improperly by the police.
The issue relates to the proper use of so-called “sneak-and-peak” warrants. The Palm Beach Post reported that sneak-and-peak warrants, which let the police surreptitiously tape the occupants of a private building, have been around since the 1970s but gained popularity after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a tool for catching terrorists. Traditional search warrants require the subject be notified before a search can be conducted. The Florida newspaper said critics argued that the warrants were meant to arrest terrorists – not to catch prostitutes and johns.
Kraft’s attorneys argued in court that no effort was made to minimize the surveillance and only focus on the alleged crime, as is required by federal law, and the judges agreed.
The Palm Beach Post notes that Florida authorities used similar surveillance in a 2014 prostitution sting in Boca Raton. “No one in the 2014 Boca Raton case challenged the authority of the sneak-and-peek warrant, possibly because none of the defendants had Robert Kraft’s deep pockets,” the Palm Beach Post wrote. “Kraft, 77, is reportedly worth $6 billion and has hired a group of high-profile attorneys to fight the charges.”
Of course, the fact that Kraft hired high-priced lawyers to defend him does not mean the legal ruling was wrong. But in a time when the role of racial and economic privilege in the justice system is getting a second and third look, the question is, as Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi put it, “whether the three-judge panel would have reached [the same conclusion] if the case didn’t involve the privacy rights of a rich, white man who owns a football team.”
Gov. Charlie Baker rebukes President Trump, calling his refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power “appalling and outrageous.”
The Cannabis Control Commission pushes a marijuana delivery model that is stirring fears of the Amazon-ification of the business, but the agency’s chair says he is trusting in capitalism.
Baker denies “bullying” school districts with his repeated calls for in-person learning if the community is low-risk for COVID-19.
Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the vice chair of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, tweets that she was “deeply disappointed” with a CommonWealth story with the headline “T targets white, wealthier riders with service cuts.”
Nursing homes are being allowed to resume in-person visits, communal dining, and exercise inside the facilities.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Former Senate president Stan Rosenberg returns to Beacon Hill as a lobbyist. (State House News Service)
Gov. Charlie Baker reactivates the National Guard to help municipalities if they ask for it, as protests are being planned over the decision by a grand jury to only indict one officer in the Breonna Taylor case. (MassLive)
The Boston Planning and Development Agency, after seven hours of testimony and deliberation, unanimously approves the development of a new neighborhood at the site of the Suffolk Downs race track in East Boston. (WBUR)
A Beverly school committee member resigns and walks out of a meeting, citing a lack of professionalism and respect by the board as they deliberate how to reopen schools. (The Salem News)
As the state loosens dining restrictions, Worcester will keep the stricter rules in place. (Telegram & Gazette)
Mass. General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital begin experimental trials of treating COVID-19 patients with plasma from recovered individuals, but they are having a hard time getting participants, partly due to low hospitalization rates. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Meanwhile, the Brigham is contending with a cluster of COVID-19 cases among staff and patients in two medical-surgical units. (Boston Globe)
New survey data show support for the Black Lives Matter movement has slipped. (Boston Globe)
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling says there was no justice for Breonna Taylor or her family in this week’s actions by a Kentucky grand jury not to charge any police officers in her death. (Boston Herald)
President Trump, who has vowed since his election four years to propose a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that will provide better care for less, instead signs an executive order proclaiming the law’s guarantee of insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions “official policy.” (Washington Post)
For a second day, President Trump refuses to agree to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the November election. (New York Times) Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, a generally more modulated voice of the middle, says the country is “sliding toward despotism.”
Nearly 500 national security experts have endorsed Joe Biden for president, saying the “current president” is not up to “the enormous responsibilities of his office.” (NPR)
As a sign of just what an uphill challenge he faces, Republican US Senate candidate Kevin O’Connor is looking for a good-news boost by releasing results of a poll his campaign commissioned that says he’s 10 points behind incumbent Democrat Ed Markey. (Boston Herald)
Mayor Marty Walsh won’t say if he’s running for a third term, but Globe columnist Kevin Cullen says he is. Fun fact from Universal Hub: Newly-declared Boston mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell, should she win, would be the first Boston Latin School graduate to serve as the city’s mayor in more than 100 years. For all its reputation as a place that molds the leaders of tomorrow, BLS has not been able to boast of a graduate serving as Boston mayor since JFK’s grandfather, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, who left office in 1914.
Quincy Public Schools started offering in-person learning this summer to students with disabilities and special needs, earning the praise of Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday. (Patriot Ledger)
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gives the green light for the Weymouth compressor station to open. (WBUR)
Water systems will be required to test for and remove PFAS chemicals from drinking water supplies under new state rules. (The Salem News)
Voters in Essex will decide on the ballot whether to place a six-month moratorium on the installation of new cell towers. (Gloucester Daily Times)
New data show Massachusetts residents have the second highest utility bills in the country. (MassLive)
In a Supreme Judicial Court ruling issued yesterday — the last decision authored by Chief Justice Ralph Gants before his death earlier this month — the court said it is proper for judges to probe allegations of racial bias among jurors. (Boston Globe)
The Springfield NAACP is calling for the removal of Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood, saying she is unable to turn the troubled department around. (MassLive)
NPR explores the ethics of not disclosing the close personal friendship between court reporter Nina Totenberg and the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (NPR)
Poynter analyses the reaction of the TV networks to the verdict in the Breonna Taylor case and concludes the coverage was strikingly similar from CNN to Fox News.