Reason Roundup

Massage Parlor Surveillance Videos Can't Be Used in Court, Says Florida Judge

Plus: the biggest trouble with Devin Nunes' Twitter lawsuit, the Senate fails to override Trump's Yemen veto, bad news for the gig economy, and more...

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Florida police failed to exhaust more low-key options and to protect the privacy of non-suspects when secretly recording surveillance video inside Martin County massage parlors. That's the verdict of Florida Judge Kathleen Roberts, whose six-page decision on the matter was delivered yesterday.

To be legal and admissible, "it would have required that when it was determined that no illegal activity was happening in the massage room, the monitoring or recording was turned off when the client began to dress after the massage was concluded," said the decision. But "at no time was any effort made to stop the monitoring or recording at any point to protect the innocent person who happened to enter an area covered by a camera."

The Martin County massage-business stings were conducted in conjunction with stings in several nearby counties, including the Palm Beach County bust that led to solicitation of prostitution charges for Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Kraft and other men charged with solicitation have been challenging the use of "sneak and peak" warrants (you know, the kind authorized under the PATRIOT Act to stop terrorism) to install secret video cameras in massage rooms, where police filmed clients undressing, getting massaged, and in some cases allegedly paying for sexual services. Workers at these businesses are also suing over the surveillance, as are customers of the spas who simply received regular massage services and weren't arrested for any funny business.

To the disappointment of some media outlets, a judge last week temporarily blocked the public release of surveillance video from the Palm Beach spas. A final decision is still pending.

The decision from Judge Roberts only applies to surveillance at Martin County spas.

"We're elated that the rule of law triumphs over a flashy press conference," says Richard Kibbey, who represents four people arrested in the Martin County stings, according to TCPalm.com.

At the initial press conferences, police portrayed themselves as the heroic foilers of an international sex trafficking ring. It later came out that they had spent more than half a year getting massages from these alleged sex slaves before arresting them on felony prostitution charges—and charging no one with human trafficking.

In her decision, Roberts noted that no effort had been made to differentiate between illegal and legal activity being recorded. "The innocent client was treated the same by law enforcement as the criminal element they sought to capture," she wrote, ordering that the video footage be suppressed in court.

State prosecutors say they intend to appeal the ruling.


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Rep. Devin Nunes has now filed several frivolous lawsuits against social media users and a local newspaper who he claims have defamed him. The California Republican "done everything an uber-conservative is supposed to do to successfully sue his hometown newspaper and Twitter trolls," including "immediately alert[ing] Fox News to the developments and then [going] on Sean Hannity to shout about his victimhood," quips Talking Points Memo. One thing Nunes hasn't done so far? Actually served the defendants with notice that they're being sued. Whoops.


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