New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft still has pending legal matters to attend to but it won’t fill his schedule anytime soon according to the expertise of one well-known attorney.
Even if the ruling to seal from the public record video evidence of his solicitation of sexual favors from a woman at a spa in South Florida is eventually reversed, Kraft has at the very least bought himself more time to prepare his eventual defense against the charges.
Daniel Wallach – a prominent sports law attorney and instructor at the University of New Hampshire – weighed in on the matter on Twitter and a radio spot on South Florida’s WEEI Thursday. Wallach’s opinion is that the matter of whether or not the video the state has wanted to use in the trial as one of the primary pieces of evidence against can be submitted as such will likely take the remainder of the year to determine, if not spill into 2020.
Attorneys for Kraft had argued that recording the events that transpired when Kraft visited Orchids of Asia Day Spa in February violated Kraft’s 4th Amendment rights in a Palm Beach County court earlier in May. Judge Leonard Hanser agreed with Kraft’s defense team and ruled the state could not use the video as evidence against Kraft, citing another federal law that limits law enforcement’s use of surveillance. When they filed the motion to suppress the video, they also argued that someone in the Palm Beach County attorney’s office or the Jupiter, Fla. Police Department had personally profited off sharing the tape with the media.
The appeal is important for the state’s case against Kraft, as it is its central piece of evidence, in the pending trial since Kraft rejected the state’s plea deal. If Hanser’s ruling is upheld by the Florida district court, it’s unknown whether the Palm Beach County attorney would further appeal that ruling to the state’s Supreme Court or to federal courts from there assuming another upholding. Further appeals of the ruling would delay the actual trial on the charges and at some point, the state may drop the two misdemeanor charges altogether if its primary piece of evidence can’t be used.
If the ruling is reversed by the Florida district court or a subsequent court after that, it’s not known if the attorneys for Kraft would then use his right to appeal. What seems more certain at this point is Kraft’s status as New England’s owner.
The NFL’s by-laws give the league to authority to fine and/or suspend Kraft regardless of whether he’s convicted of any crime. An ouster like one that nearly happened in the NBA of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling when he sold the team to Steve Ballmer would require a vote of the other 31 NFL team owners. Kraft was in attendance this week at meetings for the owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that the NFL won’t make any decisions on disciplining Kraft until after the legal process has completed.
There are a lot of uncertainties in the future for Kraft but what seems certain is that the process is going to spill into 2020, if not take even more time, before it’s complete.