Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I don’t know who came up with the bright idea to execute “sneak and peek” warrants in massage parlors but it has backfired on police and prosecutors.
The judge handling the Kraft case has thrown out the videos obtained during the undercover operation on a variety of grounds. In following the judge’s ruling my immediate reaction was: “No shit.”
Here are some obstacles that I see that the police either didn’t address or failed to overcome.
- The investigation was directed at human traffickers engaged in the sex trade. The search warrant described that some prostitutes are coerced into prostitution and forced to work in massage parlors. There was no information that the targeted massage parlors had engaged in that activity.
- Without a nexus to human trafficking, what remained was a low level misdemeanor violation.
- I don’t know Florida law, but typically police have to show that other investigative methods have failed before resorting to electronic surveillance. This would mean the deployment of undercover agents.
- Electronic surveillance is not selective it sweeps up everything that comes within range of the cameras. Police interest is limited to illegal activity. The concept is called minimization. This means that the police could not monitor legal massages. In this instance everybody was captured on video.
There was one other obstacle the police didn’t count on. They ran across a guy that refused to be bullied. I don’t know how many defendants this sting came up with. I can predict that damn near every defendant pleaded guilty, paid a fine and hoped the old lady didn’t hear about it.
A county attorney friend of mine pointed out the key to a successful DWI prosecution. He claimed to have a 100% conviction rate, where the officer pointed out that the defendant had crapped his pants or pissed all over himself.
We were waiting to go to trial in a dope case. I was conferring with the District Attorney and showed her a picture of the male defendant dressed up in full drag. I proposed using the photo for identification purposes. She snatched it up and went searching for the defense attorney. She returned triumphant several minutes later. The defendant agreed to plead guilty and go to prison, rather that have the photo entered into the record.
By publicizing the arrest, Kraft had nothing to hide and the means to take it to court. Like all bullies that get challenged, the cops weren’t up to the confrontation.
Quick fixes, aren’t. The problem with flashy is sometimes everybody gets burned. The cops had a new toy and they were having a great deal of fun playing with it. Reviewing the video evidence was a laugh a minute. The only thing better was watching the reaction of the suspects when they found out they were starring in their very own X-rated video. Who is laughing now?