Singapore Markets closed

Prosecutors charge alleged prostitute for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as judge temporarily seals spa surveillance videos

Dan Mangan
Mugshot of Shen Mingbi.

Florida prosecutors have charged a woman with being one of two spa workers who allegedly sexually serviced New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for pay, as a judge Tuesday ordered that videos that captured their alleged trysts be temporarily sealed from public view in order to protect Kraft's right to a fair trial.

The woman, 58-year-old Shen Mingbi, was released Tuesday on a $5,000 bond and ordered not to work in a massage business after being arraigned on prostitution charges in Palm Beach County Court. The charges related to allegedly servicing Kraft, former Citigroup president John Paul Havens and other men at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida.

Mingbi and another woman, Lei Wang, who was previously arrested in a related case, allegedly each received $100 from Kraft on Jan. 19 after sexually fondling him in one of the rooms at the spa.

Kraft is charged with soliciting prostitution during that visit and during another one just a day later at the same spa.

The second visit occurred hours before Kraft watched the Patriots defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.

Both encounters were caught on video from cameras hidden by police at the spa.

Kraft has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Tuesday, Judge Leonard Hanser of Palm Beach County said in a ruling that Kraft's "right to a fair trial" on charges of soliciting prostitution "requires the disputed videotape to be withheld" — for a limited period of time — from media organizations that have sought the videos' release.

In his written order, which came in response to a request by Kraft's criminal defense team to keep the videos from the public, Hanser wrote, "A seventy-eight year old man walks into a day spa and, in addition to receiving conventional spa services, he allegedly engages in illegal sexual activity."

Robert Kraft, chief executive officer of the Kraft Group and owner of the New England Patriots football team, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 5, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

"That seems like a rather tawdry but fairly unremarkable event," Hanser wrote. "But if that man is the owner of the most successful franchise in, arguably, the most popular professional sport in the United States, an entirely different dynamic arises, especially if the encounter is captured on videotape, and the incident is the focus of much media attention and pre-trial publicity."

Hanser ordered that the videos not be released until either a jury is sworn in for any trial of Kraft, the case against him is resolved by a plea deal, prosecutors drop charges against him, or "at any other time at which the Court finds that the fair trial rights of the Defendant are not at risk."

The judge wrote that he is "seriously concerned about allowing the media to disclose to the public a piece of evidence that would be (or could be) central to the case against" Kraft.

But he rejected arguments by Kraft's criminal defense team that the videos should remain sealed either because of his right to privacy or because they are exempt from disclosure under Florida law.