As a fractured nation argues over the redactions in the Mueller report, another high-profile First Amendment battle is being waged way south of Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Palm Beach County have squared off over the planned release of police videos allegedly showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other defendants engaged in sex acts at a “day spa” in Jupiter.
Kraft has pleaded innocent to soliciting prostitution. If indeed he received only routine rubdowns on his two chauffeured trips to Orchids of Asia, one might suppose he and his attorneys would want the tapes promptly released to exonerate him.
But they desperately, frantically, do not want the tapes released.
Under Florida’s Sunshine Law, however, such evidence is a public record. The media will fight, as it should, to get copies. Kraft’s lawyers will fight to suppress.
With the exception of gleeful fans of the Miami Dolphins and other Patriots rivals, it’s difficult to imagine why anyone in their right mind is dying to see videotape of a 77-year-old man with his pants around his ankles wriggling on a massage table.
Seriously, folks, hasn’t America been through enough?
My guess is there are millions of people, like myself, who — despite a profound reverence for the Constitution, especially the First Amendment — would reach into their pockets and pay good money to not have to see whatever Kraft was doing at the Orchids of Asia.
As a compromise, I would respectfully propose a GoFundMe page captioned, PLEASE, YOUR HONORS, SPARE US FROM THE BOB KRAFT TAPES!
The proceeds from the online campaign could be donated to organizations that help sex-trafficking victims, or to the favorite charities of Palm Beach Circuit Judge Joseph Marx and County Judge Leonard Hanser.
Last week, Marx temporarily blocked prosecutors from releasing the day-spa videos. A hearing is set for April 29.
Hanser, who is the trial judge in Kraft’s case, will likely be forced to rule on the same issue.
It’s considered heresy for a career journalist to advocate keeping secret a key piece of evidence in criminal court. Yet, in this instance, one could argue that the public’s right to see is outweighed by the potential damage inflicted — not to Kraft (who’s already been humiliated), but to unwitting cable-news and internet viewers.
The male body doesn’t improve with age, and at 77 there isn’t a man alive who still looks like Orlando Bloom. In fact, based on the mug shots of the day-spa defendants, the younger ones don’t look much like Orlando Bloom, either.
More unsettling, by every measure, is the alleged activity that was going on inside the massage parlors. Anyone who’s actually excited about watching that stuff can go to a porn site, where the videography is high-res and not cluttered with police timestamps.
The last time such a spirited constitutional debate arose over body-part videos was five years ago, following the DUI arrest of Mr. Justin Bieber in (where else?) Miami Beach.
Bieber had been pulled over while street racing in a yellow Lamborghini, and he unwisely made some loud remarks that the officers construed as confrontational. He was taken into custody, booked and later asked to provide a urine sample.
The Miami Beach police station is equipped with many wall-mounted cameras, and several clips of a now-docile Bieber were recorded. One of them captured the singer holding a container and approaching the designated urinal.
Subsequently, a court clash commenced between his legal team and attorneys for this newspaper and other media outlets. Some of the public — including Bieber’s adoring young fan base — clamored for a peek at what became known as the “pee tape.”
Bieber, however, was reluctant to have the moment shared.
A judge settled the dispute by allowing the release of the pee tape, though with a black bar obscuring the pop star’s penis. No doubt our Founding Fathers never envisioned the First Amendment being tested in such a way.
Before Judge Marx’s order, the prosecutors of Kraft and 24 other men were prepared to release “pixelated” versions of the day-spa videos, in which any obscene images would be blurred.
Assuming the judges won’t be swayed by a GoFundMe drive to keep the tapes private, the next best thing to hope for is an orgy of court-ordered pixelation.
In the name of mercy, your honors, please blur whatever needs blurring. Save the unredacted versions for the jury.
Americans are a strong people, but we can only endure so much.