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.

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Comments on “Federal Court Orders Destruction Of Illegally-Obtained Sex Trafficking Sting Recordings”

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3 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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