Robert Kraft's case could hinge on what did police mean by 'come up with something' before traffic stop

Charles Robinson
·NFL columnist

If Palm Beach County prosecutors weren’t already in danger of losing the misdemeanor prostitution case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, newly released court filings suggest the charges may be in jeopardy.

An exchange between Kraft’s attorneys and prosecutors this week over the legality of surveillance inside the Orchids of Asia Day Spa revealed a pressing issue for authorities in Jupiter, Florida: The officer who pulled over Kraft’s car following his spa visit was recorded on a police radio exchange saying he’d “come up with something” to justify a traffic stop where he identified a suspect who departed the spa immediately before Kraft.

Kraft’s push to discredit police tactics

Attorneys for the Patriots owner have consistently argued that police secured illegal video and audio surveillance inside the spa, and followed that up with an illegal traffic stop to identify customers leaving the business. As Kraft’s legal case progresses, his attorneys have pushed a motion to get the spa surveillance – as well as evidence gained in his traffic stop – barred from a trial.

Part of that assertion now appears to have traction as it has come to light in a recent legal exchange. The details unfolded when prosecutors asked a judge to find two of Kraft’s attorneys in contempt for falsely alleging that a police officer had admitted manufacturing a traffic infraction to stop and identify the spa patron prior to Kraft’s traffic stop. The request for that contempt finding came after two of Kraft’s attorneys – William Burck and Alex Spiro – asked Jupiter police officer Scott Kimbark if he had told other police officers that he would fabricate a reason to stop a customer who left the spa immediately before Kraft.

Jupiter police officer Scott Kimbark is questioned as he testifies during a motion hearing in New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft prostitution solicitation case, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Kimbark stopped the car containing Kraft. Kraft's attorneys argue that undercover surveillance videos allegedly showing their client paying for sex at a Jupiter day spa should be ruled inadmissible and the evidence thrown out. (Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post via AP, Pool)
Robert Kraft's legal team is focusing on Officer Scott Kimbark, pictured in a May 1 hearing. Kimbark stopped the car containing Kraft. (AP)

During the questioning, Spiro repeatedly accused Kimbark of telling other officers that although he didn’t have probable cause to stop the suspect before Kraft, the officer had said he would “make some s--- up” to create a traffic stop. Kimbark denied making that statement. Following that denial, Palm Beach County prosecutors repeated that Kimbark had made no such statement and asked the judge to strike the entire line of questioning, while also holding Burck and Spiro in contempt for making a “false and misleading” accusation.

Prosecutors further alleged that Spiro had tried to influence Kimbark during a lunch break in the same legal proceedings, telling the officer they had obtained video of him “saying stupid s---”.

Kraft’s attorney’s reacted to the contempt allegation by promising a rebuttal that would provide proof for the line of questioning. That evidence was revealed in a filing late Tuesday night, in which Kraft’s attorneys argued that the state has refused to produce Kimbark’s body cam footage during his stop of the Patriots owner. That apparently led Kraft’s legal team to seek out other accompanying evidence, some of which came from the surveillance of the customer who left the spa just prior to Kraft.

A closer look at police radio exchange

During that traffic stop, a radio exchange between officers gave Kraft’s attorneys reason to believe that the traffic stop was manipulated. In the exchange:

* Officers first discuss a traffic infraction that occurred inside the parking lot of the day spa.

* One officer asks if anyone had “anything better than pulling out of that plaza?”

* A second officer responds that the suspect was driving like “an angel” after leaving the parking lot.

* Kimbark, who eventually pulled the suspect over, responded “Alright I’ll come up with something when I tell him.”

While the suspect being spoken about wasn’t Kraft, it was the patron who left the day spa directly before him. That exchange came from the officer’s body cam footage which hasn’t been provided in the Kraft case. At the very least, it opens a window of dispute in Kraft’s defense because it suggests that police engineered elements of the traffic stop to gain the information needed in their case.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft leaves his seat during an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Miami Heat, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Patriots owner Robert Kraft faces misdemeanor charges for the alleged solicitation of prostitutes. (AP)

Defense of officer’s comment

In the volley of legal paperwork, it becomes clear that the prosecutor’s office is honing in on the line of questioning from Kraft’s attorneys that surrounded the allegation that Kimbark vowed to “make some s--- up.” The contention of the prosecution was that Kimbark intended to omit where the traffic stop occurred – in the parking lot of the day spa – rather than fabricating the stop completely.

There’s some nuance in language in that argument and it’s open to legal interpretation. But it’s leaning more toward something Kraft’s legal team has been arguing: that police didn’t have proper cause to stop some of their suspects – or perhaps just Kraft specifically.

Early in the case, it seemed like that was an argument meant to muddy the legal proceedings. Now, there may be some legitimate standing to question some of the Jupiter police department’s procedures in the case, while also potentially throwing out the traffic stop that identified Kraft.

If Kraft’s attorneys can accomplish the latter, it may undercut – and eventually end – the entire misdemeanor case hanging over him.

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