What I’m Hearing: TC Palm’s Arnie Rosenberg from the Jupiter Police Department where detectives allege New England Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft solicited prostitutes.
USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution Friday as the result of a human trafficking sting operation in Florida, according to police.
Police said the two misdemeanor charges stemmed from two separate visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, during which Kraft allegedly paid for sexual services.
According to Florida statutes, a first offense can carry a jail sentence of up to 60 days, and a second offense can result in a sentence of up to one year.
Kraft could also face discipline from the NFL if the league determines he violated the personal conduct policy.
“It is a privilege to be part of the National Football League,” the policy states in the first paragraph. “Everyone who is part of the league must refrain from ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in’ the NFL. This includes owners, coaches, players, other team employees, game officials, and employees of the league office, NFL Films, NFL Network, or any other NFL business.”
The NFL will almost certainly defer to law enforcement as police continue to investigate, but expect the league, at some point, to launch its own review of the matter. And pending the outcome of that investigation, Kraft could face a hefty suspension and/or fine from the league office, if it determines that a violation occurred.
“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity,” a spokesman for Kraft said in a statement. “Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
Said the league in a statement, “The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments.”
One sticking point in many of the league’s investigations has been the obtaining of evidence. Because the NFL does not hold subpoena powers, involved parties are not required to participate, and law enforcement offices do not need to share any of materials gathered from their investigations.
According to Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, however, Jupiter Police planted hidden cameras inside the spa and recorded 25 men allegedly receiving sex acts in exchange for money during the months-long sting operation.
“The question was ‘Does the video contain Mr. Kraft inside receiving the alleged acts?’ ” Jupiter detective Andrew Sharp said. “The answer to that is yes.”
In multiple past cases – including the Ray Rice domestic violence case against his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in which he struck her inside an Atlantic City hotel elevator and dragged her out of it – the release of video of an incident ignited outcry and prompted the league to take action or issue a more stringent punishment.
The NFL initially gave Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who was subsequently released by the team, a two-game suspension. But when TMZ published a second video that showed the assault taking place, many criticized the league for what was then considered a lenient punishment. The league said it had not seen the second video prior to issuing the two-game suspension and then announced it was suspending Rice indefinitely for the matter. An independent arbiter later ruled in favor of Rice and ordered the league to reinstate him immediately.
Most recently, video published in December by TMZ showing former Chiefs and current Browns running back Kareem Hunt shoving and kicking a woman last February prompted the league to place Hunt on the commissioner’s exempt list, preventing him from practicing or playing in games. The NFL announced it had initiated an investigation beginning in February 2018 into Hunt’s case, though it has yet to issue any ruling on his status.
Regardless of how the legal process plays out for Kraft, the league still could levy a punishment against him. According to the conduct policy, “It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”
The policy also stipulates, “Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur.”
The last time an NFL owner was suspended for a violation of the personal conduct policy was in September 2014 when Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended six games and fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated on pain killers after an arrest in March 2014.
Police said the charges alleged against Kraft are part of a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in Palm Beach County that resulted in the shutting down of 10 spas in the area. According to Snyder, the victims – many of whom were from China – lived in the spa, were not allowed to leave, and were lured to the United States under the guise of having legitimate jobs awaiting them, only to be placed into “sexual servitude.”
Kraft, 77, had recently been celebrating New England’s victory in Super Bowl LIII, the team’s sixth championship under his tenure.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.