Federal Court Orders Destruction Of Illegally-Obtained Sex Trafficking Sting Recordings

from the no-sex-traffickers-were-harmed-during-the-course-of-this-investigation dept

The expiring breaths of a sensationalistic failure are emanating from a Florida sex trafficking investigation's soon-to-be corpse. A massive sting operation -- built on surreptitious recordings of massage parlor employees and their customers -- ended with nothing more than a bunch of solicitation charges. The alleged massive sex trafficking operation was actually just a bunch of consensual activity, with massage parlor employees free to come and go as they pleased.

It still made headlines, mainly because New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of those caught on camera. But nearly every attempted prosecution has been thwarted by the actions of law enforcement officers, whose recordings illegally intruded into private spaces, violating the Fourth Amendment. The Appeals Court of Florida tossed the allegedly incriminating recordings, finding them unconstitutional.

For some reason, the agencies that made the surreptitious, illegal recordings are still holding onto them. The state attorney's office has allowed the retention of the videos, claiming they might be useful to plaintiffs suing law enforcement officers and agencies over violated rights.

On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable assertion. There is at least one federal lawsuit involving this sting operation underway. But the state attorney -- David Aronberg -- thinks immunity (qualified or absolute) will allow him and several law enforcement agencies to escape unscathed. Until that happens, Aronberg wants the recordings to remain intact until this litigation concludes, claiming his office can't "legally or ethically" order the destruction of potential evidence against him.

But his arguments aren't working. As Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports for Reason, a federal judge has ruled against the state attorney.

In his January 22 order, Ruiz granted John Doe's motion to compel destruction of the massage room video. Ruiz ruled that the defendants "shall destroy the videos unlawfully obtained through the surveillance of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa […] from January 18, 2019 to January 22, 2019, including any body camera footage obtained during associated traffic stops as well as any copies thereof."

The motion to compel destruction was unopposed, and Ruiz noted that the destruction is "pursuant to the terms of the parties' settlement agreement."

So, let's sort this all out. The state attorney claimed the footage needed to be retained because these plaintiffs might want to use it as evidence in their lawsuit. But the plaintiffs actually wanted the footage destroyed and had to get the court to order the destruction the state attorney claimed wasn't "legal or ethical."

Retaining the footage plaintiffs wanted destroyed was, at the very least, unethical. And this order makes any further retention illegal. It would have seemed apparent destruction was the right way to go unless the plaintiffs requested otherwise, given that the state appeals court ruled last year that the recordings were illegally obtained and could not be used as evidence in the state's prosecutions.

This about wraps up this sordid little law enforcement escapade. And another sex trafficking sting resulting in the arrest of zero sex traffickers is par for the course for law enforcement agencies which appear to be looking for any excuse to engage in titillating wastes of taxpayers' time and money.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: florida, moral panic, sex trafficking, sex work


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2021 @ 4:56pm

    I guess they rubbed somebody the wrong way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PartTimeZombie (profile), 3 Feb 2021 @ 5:22pm

    Oh, Florida is it?

    Isn't that the state run by Ron DeSantis who has people arrested when they won't alter covid data for him?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2021 @ 1:20am

    I was going to rant about you linking to the schizophrenia known as Reason dot com, but then I realized that their tagline was accurate. "free minds" is almost always antithetical to "free market", and what they are actually saying is that they post blogs from "both sides", none of which is labeled as opinion or fact. It's better read as a challenge and not a claim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.