Judge temporarily stops Kraft video release

A Florida judge issued a temporary protective order Wednesday stopping the release of video evidence of sexual services Robert Kraft allegedly received from a massage parlor.

Kraft's legal team had been scrambling to stop the release after the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office surprised the New England Patriots owner and other defendants Wednesday morning by announcing they would release the video as soon as possible, saying Florida's broad open records laws gave them no other option.

Judge Joseph Marx has scheduled a hearing for April 29 to rule on the video evidence.

In a conference call with the two parties and the media Wednesday, Marx said, "I may be on shaky grounds, media, but right is right. To have this happen without a judge passing judgment on it is just wrong. So I am ordering, I am barring its release until this court ... don't want this released until I've ruled."

Kraft and 24 other men were charged with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution in February after police identified them as having received services at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. Part of the evidence collected against the men, as well as two women who ran the spa, was police surveillance video.

Kraft and other defendants filed motions to have the video evidence sealed and suppressed last month, and a hearing was scheduled on the matter for April 26. But State Attorney Dave Aronberg filed an intent to release the evidence Wednesday morning as part of the case against the two women, Hua Zhang and Lei Wang, not in the cases against Kraft and the other men.

Kraft, who is fighting the two misdemeanor charges with a large legal team, responded by filing a motion to intervene in the case against Zhang and Wang. Kraft's team argues that there is no public interest served by releasing the video, and that no action should be taken before a judge has a chance to rule on the motions to seal and suppress the evidence.

Prosecutors last month offered him and the other defendants a diversion agreement that would allow them to have the cases expunged and the evidence sealed if they agreed to certain conditions, including an admission that they would have lost had the case gone to court. But Kraft has refused to concede that he committed a crime, and has, instead, mounted an expensive legal defense that has surprised both prosecutors and some members of his own inner circle.

A group of media companies, including ESPN, has intervened in the case, suing for the release of all material, including the video evidence. State prosecutors said in court documents that there is nothing about Kraft's case that allows them to withhold the evidence from the public. The material might be obscene, but that's not a reason to exempt it from release, they argued. The filing also noted that as a practice, the state pixelates or blurs sexually graphic content.