Robert Kraft’s Alleged Sex Tape Is A Test For Florida’s Open Records Laws (HBO)

A Florida court is currently weighing an important matter: Does the public have the right to see a 77-year-old billionaire get a hand job?

The billionaire, of course, is Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots. He was arrested for soliciting a prostitute back in February in a bust at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, where surveillance cameras police had secretly installed at the spa captured him in action.

Kraft has pled not guilty, and since the arrest his lawyers have been working hard to keep that footage from being released to the media. They say that since all the gory allegations against Kraft are in a publicly available police affidavit, releasing the actual video would serve no purpose other than to humiliate Kraft and generate a lot of clicks.

It’s a reasonable argument. But in this case, it’s in direct conflict with a series of Florida statutes called sunshine laws, which require that all government records — texts, photos, videos, whatever, including criminal evidence — must be easily available to the public, with only a few exceptions. This is what makes the endlessly entertaining Florida Man Twitter feed possible. And it’s what gives Floridians more government transparency than residents of any other state.

In other words, the Kraft case isn’t just about the public’s appetite for salacious news. It’s also about the value of government transparency, and whether a rich and famous person should be exempted from the rules. And the case is especially important because it comes at a time when the sunshine laws are under assault on a variety of fronts.

Corporations, for instance, are giving transparency a bad name by mining public records for information they can use in lawsuits. The Florida legislature, under the guise of reducing the workload for the Department of Law Enforcement, is considering a bill that would allow the department to seal millions of criminal records from cases where charges were dropped or dismissed, or even where someone was tried and found not guilty. That would make it harder to identify patterns of misconduct, or to expose things like wrongful prosecutions.

Finally, there are the rich guys like Kraft, who are pushing hard to make sure the sunshine laws don’t apply to them. And in Kraft’s case, at least, that push is working: on Tuesday, a judge temporarily sealed the tapes, saying that Kraft’s fame did make releasing them a different proposition than it would be if he were just an average Florida man. The case is still ongoing, but for now at least, the score is Kraft 1, Transparency O.

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Kraft wants massage video blocked from public

Attorneys representing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other men charged in a Florida massage parlor prostitution investigation are asking a judge to block the release of video that police say shows them engaging in sexual acts (March 21).

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Fla. State Attorney: ‘No one gets special justice’

State Attorney for Palm Beach says ‘no one gets special justice’ in his county, especially when it comes to the crackdown of sex trafficking, in reference to a case that Robert Kraft, NFL Patriots owner is accused in. (Feb. 25)

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Pats owner facing charges in sex sting

Patriots owner Robert Kraft faces misdemeanor charges of soliciting a prostitute after he was twice videotaped in a sex act at a Florida massage parlor, police said Friday. The 77-year-old Kraft denied any wrongdoing. (Feb 22)

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AP Top Stories February 22 P

Here’s the latest for Friday February 22nd: Singer R. Kelly charged; Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitute; House Democrats block President’s national emergency declaration; Memorial fly-by in UK.

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Police: Patriots owner solicited prostitute

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being charged with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at an illicit massage parlor, police in Florida said Friday. (Feb. 22)

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