Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Robert Kraft case illuminates ethical dilemma around surveillance

On Monday, prosecutors decided not to appeal a court ruling that disqualifies video evidence allegedly showing Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, paying for sexual acts in a Florida massage parlor.

Video surveillance was secretly installed inside the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in 2019 by the Jupiter police. The district court ruled that this action infringed on the rights and privacy of innocent customers in the parlor, despite officers having a warrant.

While the activities that took place in the massage parlor were indeed illegal and should face consequences, the police’s actions weren’t entirely justifiable, either.

The critical question here is: does the outcome justify the means? In this case, the information would serve the greater good despite the unethical ways in which it was obtained. However, these investigators should have avoided such an obvious ethical breach in their process.

To use the recordings as legal evidence against Kraft would set a precedent that endangers the privacy of regular citizens for years to come. If this level of surveillance is permitted by law enforcement, where is the boundary line drawn?

What seems like an easy victory for justice now — convicting Kraft — could be a major setback in the bigger picture.

It is imperative for the general people to trust the judicial system and institutions of power. So although the information should be public, it cannot be lenient with the ruling. Whether or not the videos capture incriminating evidence, private citizens did not give their consent to be filmed.

Ethical loopholes like these sometimes allow the guilty to run free, but the underlying principles are vital. To start making exceptions would enable us to begin paving the road to a police state.

Had this investigation spanned out in a less legally dubious way, justice could have been served. But, that opportunity has been fumbled. Now we are aware of the problem, yet can do nothing to solve it.

Kraft and about 20 other men involved in the case are most likely going to have all charges dropped. Kraft can afford the country’s top lawyers, and will do anything in his power to get out of this situation clean. Kraft is even asking that his legal team have the tapes destroyed, and will pay the price if there is any objection.

His actions are clearly those of a guilty party.

A person without the wealth Kraft holds will not have that privilege. They would have no power to protect themselves from investigation if the ruling were to be overturned.

Kraft wasn’t even a subject when the video cameras were installed in 2019. The investigation began because police suspected that there was a possibility of human trafficking, according to The Boston Globe. Though the investigation and trials have been ongoing since, media coverage has been sparse.

Kraft’s case has truly fallen to the wayside and was lost in the news cycle. The Patriot’s public relations team has skillfully handled various scandals: former player Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction, Tom Brady’s infamous Deflategate — Kraft’s was no different.

The Patriots are masters at putting on a persona that nothing off the field matters. They dominate the news cycle in their own way by twisting the narrative to be solely about football, without addressing much else. There are too many issues for people to be angry over and call out, so it all gets brushed aside.

For men like Kraft, the bar for behavior is much too low. This is just another scandal involving the wealthy who will once again escape punishment. At this point, some people have stopped paying attention.

Even if he were convicted, perhaps the worst punishment he would face would be community service and a fine.

A fine won’t hurt Kraft. But the one place he will feel a loss is in the court of public opinion.

He has probably squandered some fans’ trust now that this case is gaining more attention. It’s unfortunate, but the public will be Kraft’s biggest discipliner — not the judicial system.

And as it stands right now, there is no way to change that.

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