Judge clears Robert Kraft’s attorneys of contempt accusation
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge handed another loss to the prosecution in New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s misdemeanor prostitution solicitation case Friday, dismissing allegations that his attorneys tried to verbally intimidate a police officer and falsely accused him of lying.
Judge Leonard Hanser rejected the prosecution’s request that he find attorneys Alex Spiro and William Burck in contempt of court. Hanser said any problems prosecutors have with the pair should be taken up with their states’ bar associations.
Palm Beach County State Attorney spokesman Mike Edmondson said prosecutors are reviewing the decision and have not decided whether they will file bar complaints against Spiro and Burck. The pair declined comment.
Spiro and Burck are both high-profile, out-of-state attorneys hired by Kraft after he and 24 other men were charged with soliciting sex at the now-closed Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft, 78 and worth $6 billion, was charged in February with twice paying for sex at the spa. The owner and some employees have been charged with felonies. Kraft has pleaded not guilty but issued a public apology for his actions.
Burck recently represented former White House Counsel Don McGahn during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Spiro also represents Jay-Z, Mick Jagger and other celebrities in various matters and was part of the legal team that represented the late Patriots star Aaron Hernandez against a murder charge. He was convicted.
The contempt allegations sprang from a contentious, multiday hearing that ended last month over whether Jupiter police violated Kraft’s rights and state and federal law when they secretly installed surveillance cameras inside the spa. Hanser recently agreed with Burck and Spiro and threw out videos that allegedly show Kraft engaging in sex with spa employees, as have judges overseeing other cases. Prosecutors are appealing those decisions, but if they are upheld, the cases against most of those charged likely will be dropped.
In court documents and proceedings, Jupiter police said that after receiving a tip from a neighboring county that Orchids of Asia might be a prostitution front, detectives placed it under surveillance in November and persuaded a judge in January to issue a warrant letting them install the cameras. Kraft’s attorneys and other attorneys accused them of lying to obtain the warrant.
According to testimony, if detectives monitoring the cameras saw a customer pay for sex, the suspect was tailed by Jupiter officers as he left the parking lot until he committed a traffic violation. He was then pulled over to obtain his identification so he could later be charged with solicitation. The men were not told immediately that they had been seen at Orchids of Asia. Police said they didn’t want to tip off the spa’s owner about the surveillance.
Officer Scott Kimbark pulled over Kraft’s chauffer after one of his January visits. During questioning at Kraft’s hearing, Spiro asked Kimbark about his recorded conversation with other officers about pulling over the previous customer. Spiro four times accused Kimbark of acknowledging he didn’t have probable cause to stop the man, but would “make some ... up,” using a common obscenity.
Kimbark denied saying that. Prosecutors said to avoid telling the man that his traffic violation had occurred in the spa’s parking lot, Kimbark was recorded telling another officer that if the man asked about the violation’s location he would “come up with something.”
Prosecutors said the wording of Spiro’s question “was designed to mislead (the judge) as to the lawfulness of the traffic stop.”
Burck and Spiro filed a rebuttal saying Spiro “had a good faith basis” to question the officer as he did, based on what he was told by the other man’s attorney. They said prosecutors didn’t give them Kimbark’s video before the hearing as requested.
Prosecutors also accused Spiro of trying to intimidate Kimbark during a lunch break, allegedly telling the officer he had video of Kimbark saying “stupid” things.
Spiro and Burck wrote in their rebuttal that a prosecutor and other police officers witnessed Spiro’s conversation with Kimbark but no one raised any objections to Hanser that day.
“Far from being threatening in tone, the atmosphere in the hallway was amiable and light hearted ... to the point that Officer Kimbark even joked he would like to have a job working for the defense,” the pair wrote.