First-time offenders who were charged with misdemeanors as part of a prostitution solicitation sting in Florida last month — which would include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft — have been offered pre-trial diversion deals that would ultimately lead to the dismissal of solicitation charges, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.
The agreement proposed by prosecutors mandates the men review the evidence and admit they would be found guilty if the case went to trial. The Wall Street Journal was the first media outlet to report the offer.
“All defendants in that investigation that have been charged with misdemeanors receive a comparable plea offer,” said Michael Edmondson, state attorney’s spokesman.
Edmondson didn’t comment on Kraft specifically.
Kraft, 77, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution linked to visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, last month. Orchids of Asia was one of the spas under surveillance as part of multi-jurisdiction prostitution ring investigation.
He pleaded not guilty earlier this month and asked for a bench trial in the case. The Patriots said in a statement that they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.”
There is no indication whether Kraft would take such an offer. Messages left with Kraft’s attorney by USA TODAY Sports were not immediately returned on Tuesday.
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.”
Jordan Wagner, a partner at the law firm Kibbey Wagner that represents several people charged in the prostitution solicitation sting, told USA TODAY Sports he first saw the diversion offer on Monday. Wagner said the offer from prosecutors was “somewhat standard up until when they asked clients to provide a sworn statement … that they’d be proven guilty” if the cases went to trial.
“That was highly unusual,” Wagner said.
The timetable on when those proposed deals must be accepted “is still up in the air,” Wagner said. Wagner, who does not represent Kraft, also said his firm is looking into whether they can further negotiate that diversion deal to take out an admission of guilt, which could impact professional certifications and immigration status of the defendants.
Former assistant U.S. Attorney David S. Weinstein told USA TODAY Sports that “could be a deal breaker for a number of people.”
“For Kraft, it will give the NFL leverage in his punishment for violating the personal-conduct policy,” said Weinstein, a Florida-based attorney and partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson.
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Even if the charges were ultimately dropped, Kraft could still face discipline under the NFL’s personal-conduct policy. The policy does not require a conviction – or even charges – for an individual to be sanctioned by the league.
Weinstein said the requirement of an admission of guilt could be to “fight against all of the negative publicity that their overall investigation has been gathering.”
Fourth Amendment concerns have been voiced by attorneys representing defendants in the case related to how authorities obtained video from inside the spas.
Kraft faces a 10-day minimum sentence and a maximum of up to two years in jail if convicted on both charges.
For a first-time offender of a prostitution charge, the pretrial diversion programs could involve community service, fines, HIV classes and attending a prostitution intervention class.