One man's lawsuit claims Jupiter Police Department were wrong to record him having a non-sexual massage during an undercover sting at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Photo: Hannah Morse/Palm Beach Post via AP.
A man who visited the same spa that entangled New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and 24 others in a prostitution investigation has had trouble relaxing since discovering his non-sexual massage was taped during an undercover sting, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
The plaintiff, referred to as John Doe, claims the Jupiter, Florida, Police Department lead detective Andrew Sharp and Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg violated his rights by spying on him "in a state of undress" at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
The complaint, filed in the Southern District of Florida, claims the spying constituted "a gross abuse of power that is shocking to the conscience." It relies on the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens' right to privacy, due process and freedom from unreasonable searches.
The plaintiff had his massage in January. But police began investigating in October, according to the lawsuit, after finding numerous posts about the spa in an online forum discussing sexual experiences at illicit massage parlors. Initial reconnaissance revealed that only men were walking in, though the spa's services appeared to be aimed at women. The lawsuit claims the lead detective, Sharp, then had a government health inspector search the spa and interview its staff without a warrant.
Edward M. Mullins. Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM.
Plaintiff counsel, Edward M. Mullins of Reed Smith in Miami and Joseph Tacopina of the Law Offices of Tacopina & Seigel in New York, did not respond to requests for comment before deadline. But their court filings claim police already had "overwhelming evidence" of prostitution at the spa when they installed secret cameras on Jan. 18, the day before their client's massage.
Police staged a "suspicious package" scare to set up their monitoring equipment, according to the complaint, which claims there was no basis for their "unnecessary and obtrusive" five-day surveillance.
The complaint said officers had already tailed clients on their way out of the spa, pulled them over for traffic violations and interviewed them about paying for sexual encounters. They'd also rummaged through the spa's trash — sometimes finding napkins that tested positive for semen — and collected bills, bank accounts and income reports that pointed to prostitution.
Police raided the Orchids of Asia Spa on Feb. 19, arrested two managers and later charged Kraft and others with misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution. Doe was not accused of any wrongdoing, but his suit comes after prosecutors argued at an Apr. 12 hearing that tapes of innocent clients fit under the public records umbrella.
Kraft and 14 other defendants have asked West Palm Beach Circuit Judge Frank Castor to stop their surveillance cameos from being released.
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Spokesperson for the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office Mike Edmondson said, “The State of Florida will respond in court as is appropriate" but would not comment further. The Jupiter Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The complaint seeks punitive damages, attorney fees and costs, and destruction of the surveillance footage.
Read the full complaint: