Owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft was caught with his pants down — literally — at least according to Florida police.
The 77-year-old billionaire was charged in February with two counts of “soliciting another to commit prostitution” after a months-long investigation into day spas and massage parlors police suspected of being used for prostitution. Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said Kraft visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa on two occasions and police had video footage showing him receiving “paid acts” in a room at the spa.
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But Kraft said the charges were all wrong. “We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity,” his spokesman said. Kraft pleaded not guilty and reportedly assembled a “dream team” of attorneys to battle the charges.
Now, though, comes a whole new wrinkly in the case, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Florida prosecutors have offered to drop charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a number of other men charged with soliciting prostitution, according to a person familiar with the matter, but there is a catch. The proposed agreement calls for the men to admit they would have been proven guilty at trial.
The proposed deferred prosecution agreement calls for completion of an education course about prostitution, completion of 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs.
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But in an unusual provision, the agreement also calls for the defendants to review the evidence in the case and agree that, if it were to go to trial, the state would be able to prove their guilt, this person said. It isn’t clear whether Mr. Kraft and others would accept such a condition. When the charges were announced, a spokesman for Mr. Kraft denied he engaged in illegal activity.
A spokesman for the state attorney’s office said that it is the standard resolution for first-time offenders, or they go to trial.
The deal is not unusual, USA Today reported. “All defendants in that investigation that have been charged with misdemeanors receive a comparable plea offer,” said Michael Edmondson, state attorney’s spokesman.
Edmondson said generally there is “a requirement for either an admission of guilt or an acknowledgement that the state could prevail at trial for the pretrial diversion to go forward.”
That would put Kraft in a tough spot. With his “dream team” of lawyers — and his billion-dollar bank account — he could put up quite a fight. Or the whole mess could be swept under the carpet — provided he just say he did what he’s charged with doing.
The Journal pointed out that “legal experts have raised questions about the tactics Jupiter, Fla., police used in obtaining search warrants for an investigation they said was intended to stop a growing human trafficking problem.”
Prosecutors and law-enforcement officials had described the investigation as a probe into human trafficking and portrayed the men who patronized the spas as contributing to the demand for sex slavery. In announcing the charges, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, had called human trafficking “evil in our midst,” echoing the rhetoric of law-enforcement officials. But no one has been charged with human trafficking in the case. Prosecutors’ affidavits have not detailed evidence of human trafficking at Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
“The police are making this case that this is a major human trafficking ring, and that’s why it’s so serious,” said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and managing partner of Tucker Levin, PLLC who is not connected to the case. “The fact that they had cameras installed in the locations for so long somewhat undermines the claim that there was an extraordinary danger to the people working in the establishment.”
If Kraft doesn’t take the deal, he faces at least 10 days in jail — and up to two years — if convicted on both charges.