A class action lawsuit claims that a South Florida police department violated the privacy of patrons receiving lawful services at a massage parlor while they investigated alleged prostitution occurring at the spa. The investigation ultimately led to more than 20 men, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, being charged with soliciting prostitution. An unnamed plaintiff filed the class action lawsuit against the Town of Jupiter Police Department, as well as Detective Andrew Sharp, and Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Farron Cousins:                  When it was announced not that long ago that Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots was going to be indicted for solicitation of prostitution down here in our great state of Florida, a lot of people were shocked, and then they were shocked later on when they found out that he was actually going to not take the plea deal that would basically result in no punishment whatsoever for him. All he had to do was admit that he did it, but it turns out there may actually be a reason why he rejected that sweetheart deal, and that reason affects more people than just Robert Kraft.

Joining me now to explain what’s happening is Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions. Scott, we’ve, we’ve got a real situation, I guess you’d call it, brewing down here in the state of Florida, which is known as obviously one of the crazier states in this country. My apologies for that, but this story’s actually really interesting and very alarming for people down here in the state of Florida. I don’t want to give too much away. I will let you do that. Take it from there.

Scott Hardy:                          Sure, and you know, just like you said, a lot of us were sitting here seeing this case unfold and saying, all right, Mr. Kraft, you’re caught on camera getting manual genital simulation and it should be cut and dry. Right? That should be it. You’re on tape with this woman. I assume it’s a woman and this, this you’re, you’re guilty. That’s all of us were already saying, hey, you’re guilty.

Just take the plea. But the guy’s a billionaire and so you’ve got to take a look at it and say, how can you possibly change the course of this? And as you said, there was a sweetheart deal. And so now you have this class action that was filed on behalf of patrons of the Orchid Day spa who went there for the actual massages and not the extra special treatments that Mr. Kraft allegedly took part in.

And they’re saying, hey, you taped me illegally. And those videos, when I went in there and I got undressed and I’m in a massage room and I got a massage, no, no quote quotes, massage. I got an actual massage. You taped me illegally, I’m worried. There are Freedom of Information Acts, there are Department of Health requests that people are trying to get these tapes public and so you have these patrons who were there, went through an entirely legal process there and now they’re concerned that they might, videos of them being naked might get released out there and leak on the Internet, which is why you have this class action.

But I can tell you that in my 11 plus years now doing this reporting on class actions, I’ve never seen a class action like this. But we’ll have to see. You know, when Mr. Kraft has some resources and they start digging into it, if the courts deem that this surveillance was illegal and that’s what this class action alleges and that the warrant may be improper, then that video evidence against Mr. Kraft could go poof and we’d know why at that point he said no to that plea deal.

Farron Cousins:                  And, you know, it was interesting again because I guess we had a week or two ago when it was revealed, oh my God, the tape of Robert Kraft is coming out tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. And then suddenly they said, okay, we’re going to hold it back. And they didn’t really tell us why. They, they wanted to challenge the Florida open records thing, but it turns out it was a little bit deeper than that and it goes into what you’re saying.

You know, first of all, we don’t know if that warrant was on the level. The police officer that came in there to install this recording equipment, you know, he may not have been allowed legally to even do that. And as we all know, we have that constitutional right. You cannot gather evidence, which includes videotaping anyone unless you have a warrant. It cannot be used by law enforcement.

They can’t just go in there and set up cameras wherever they want in, in, in private, obviously. And so now we’re looking at a whole new set of legal issues that may not just be, did these patrons break the law, but we could potentially be looking at, did the police officers break the law trying to catch the law breakers? And it just seems like everybody down here in the state of Florida just doesn’t want to follow the rules whatsoever. And, you know, I, it’s, it’s a really bad situation.

It’s a bad situation for the women in these spas because as we know, this was, this whole investigation actually started because they thought that some of these women could be the victims of human trafficking. Something that absolutely needs to be investigated. And if it turns out these officers violated the law just to, you know, nab some high profile names or, or whatever it is, they may have ruined what could have been a phenomenal investigation that put an end to the suffering of these women.

Scott Hardy:                          Right, and, and I think, you know, this wouldn’t have happened most likely if Robert Kraft wasn’t arrested. Right? You know, you would have had these people that were on tape having this service done to them and it would have been, had the plea deals, they would have, you know, signed they’re misdemeanors and been on their way and done their public service. But you’ve got a billionaire that’s accused of this and wants no part in any kind of plea deal.

They’re going to dig deeper and they are going to shake up that investigation. And you know, the, the police of Jupiter, Florida are going over, they’ve got to be quaking a bit in their, in their boots as they start into how legal was this warrant? Was calling in and saying that there was a suspicious, suspicious package to get the employees and the owners of the massage studio out, and so they could place these hidden cameras. Was that legal?

There are a number of different items on this list that the attorneys are digging into and which will absolutely impact, as you said, the human trafficking case, the, the sexual, the sexual favors here, case and, and it’s going to be really interesting to see overall how this plays out. And if any of these videos ever get leaked, which it will be very, very bad news for the city of Jupiter as well.

Farron Cousins:                  Right, and obviously too, you know, as you talked about the one man, the filing the suit, he went in there for just a regular massage. He didn’t want any of that other stuff. And should these videos be released and be leaked, you’re obviously going to have more legit customers than the ones going in there for the, you know, the other stuff. But how are you going to be able to tell that just from a portion of a leaked video? You know, people could easily be smeared with this.

It could be used against them even if they did nothing wrong. This could end careers, it could end marriages. This is a big deal. And I guarantee you, because remember when it came out, they said, Robert Kraft is not the biggest name in there. They said that. And we know that the woman who founded these massage parlors, she is not affiliated with it any more, nor was she during the investigations.

But she has been palling around with every single high profile Republican from the state of Florida. We’ve discussed that here on Ring of Fire. She watched the super bowl with Donald Trump himself. So people are going to be wanting to look through those videos to see if there’s any other big name on there. You know, was there a politician? Was there another billionaire, who is in there?

And in the course of doing that, they’re going to see all of these average everyday people who just thought to themselves, you know what, I’m going to go treat myself to a massage today. And that’s where it’s going to run into a lot of problems.

Scott Hardy:                          Exactly. There are going to be a lot of victims here along with the workers themselves, if they were actually trafficked and this, the innocent customers who just went in there for a massage and now, you know, their face could get plastered all over the world as someone and labeled a deviant, even if they just went in there and just got a massage. It doesn’t matter, core public opinion. That’s what matters. And you are branded for the rest of your life.

Farron Cousins:                  Absolutely. If anybody needs more information about this issue, follow the link in this video. Go to topclassactions.com and while you’re make sure you sign up for their newsletter, get all of these stories and more that consumers need to know about delivered directly to your inbox. Scott Hardy with Top Class Actions. Thank you very much for talking with us.

Scott Hardy:                          You’re welcome. Thanks for your time Farron.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced