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“Sunshine Act”

Jon Couture
March 28, 2019

A few days ago, the “Florida Man” challenge swept the Internet. A simple enough concept: Google the phrase “Florida Man” and your birthdate, then tell your friends what ridiculous piece of crime news comes up. It, like most social media phenomenon, was fleeting and funny. Did you ever wonder why “Florida Man” is a thing, however?

It’s because of the “Sunshine Act” and Florida’s dedication to sweeping public records law. Unlike Massachusetts, which has some of the nation’s most restrictive records access, Florida lets it all out. It’s exactly the opposite: Arrest records are released almost immediately. Everything is fair game for essentially anyone, with restrictions needing to be for very specific cases.

Which brings us to Robert Kraft and the reported video of his business inside the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla.

Writing at length for Deadspin, Diana Moskovitz outlines Kraft’s efforts to have the video of him at the spa suppressed, the countersuit filed by a bevy of Floridian and national media outlets — including ABC, ESPN, The Associated Press, The New York Times, and GateHouse Media — to argue the videos are public records, and the long road that the Patriots owner appears to face in keeping the visuals from his time at Orchids private.

“Florida courts have long recognized that government records are presumptively open and that the Public Records Ace is to be construed liberally in favor of access,” wrote the lawyers for the media outlets in their motion, which is fully viewable at Deadspin.

Kraft’s argument, and that of the other men involved in the case trying to keep the video from public view, is that the video is part of an active investigation, and therefore remains confidential and exempt from Florida’s Sunshine Laws, which date specifically to 1967 and which were further strengthened in 1992 when “The Attorney General’s Office drafted a definitive constitutional amendment, which guaranteed continued openness in the state’s government and reaffirmed the application of open government to the legislative branch and expanded it to the judiciary.”

The Deadspin piece certainly seems to infer that Kraft’s likely to lose this push. Martin County (Fla.) Sheriff William Snyder, who led the sex-trafficking operation that got the cameras put in Orchids of Asia, expressed the same feelings to CNBC.

“I do think ultimately they are probably going to get released,” he said. “Once a case is over, it’s not an ongoing investigation. There has to be a specific reason not to release a public record. And the fact that there is sexual activity is not an exemption.”

As for what the tapes show?

“I watched and just left the room,” Snyder said. “There is nothing to see. It’s pretty ugly.”