A Florida judge ruled Tuesday that video purporting to show New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft paying to receive sex acts from a massage parlor worker should not be made public until after the case either goes to trial or is resolved in some other way.
Circuit Judge Leonard Hanser agreed with Kraft's attorneys that releasing the video likely would make it impossible to seat a jury to try the 77-year-old on misdemeanor prostitution charges. Kraft pleaded not guilty to the charges but has issued a statement apologizing for his conduct.
Several media organizations have requested the release of a redacted version of the video under Florida's broad public records laws.
Hanser wrote that under normal circumstances, an older man allegedly paying for sexual services would be "a rather tawdry but fairly unremarkable event."
"But if that man is the owner of the most successful franchise in, arguably, the most popular professional sport in the United States, an entirely different dynamic arises," Hanser wrote. He said the video would be shown widely on television and on the Internet and it would be difficult for him to find unbiased jurors.
Kraft was one of 25 men charged with solicitation after police secretly installed cameras at the Orchids of Asia massage parlor in Jupiter, Fla., in what authorities initially said was an investigation into human trafficking. Prosecutors have since said they found no evidence of trafficking at the spa.
In a separate hearing, Circuit Judge Joseph Marx permitted spa owner Hua Zhang and therapist Lei Wang to subpoena celebrity gossip site TheBlast.com and its phone provider in an effort to determine who reached out with an offer to sell the Kraft video to the website last week.
TheBlast reported that it did not buy the video, but that the would-be leaker showed its employees a snippet. One of Kraft's attorneys, Alex Spiro, testified that the website's CEO and lawyer described to him what the alleged leaker showed and he believed it matched the video police showed him.
Attorneys for Zhang and Wang argued that the video leak must have come from the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office or Jupiter police. Both agencies denied that and Marx said the attorneys had not proven that the leak was real. The judge did order both agencies to hand over a list by Monday of all employees who had access to the video.
"If this video has really been leaked then we’re going to see it," Marx said. "It's a sad state of affairs but there's nothing I can do right now that will prevent that." The video has not shown up elsewhere.
In a separate matter, Kraft's attorneys were seeking to suppress the video on grounds that it was an invasion of privacy and that the search warrant to install the cameras was obtained using untrue statements indicating that investigators had found potential evidence of human trafficking. A hearing on that motion was scheduled for Friday.
Fox News' Heather Lacy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.