Prosecutors in Florida have offered to drop solicitation charges against Robert Kraft after the Patriots owner was charged in February, along with 24 other men, on the misdemeanor of buying sex at a strip-mall day-spa, the Orchids of Asia. At first glance, the offer appears to have an odd tone of shaming going on, in addition to being a slap on the offenders’ wrists: Review the evidence, admit that we would have found you guilty if the case went to trial, and we won’t charge you with anything.
But the provision, which a spokesman for the state attorney’s office claimed was “standard” for first-time offenders, may be a result of police tactics that could be difficult to justify in court. Police used a so-called sneak-and-peek warrant — the practice of hiding cameras on private property made more common by, ironically, the Patriot Act — in the sting, which prosecutors described as an investigation into human trafficking. But no one has been charged with an offense related to human trafficking, and prosecutors’ affidavits have reportedly not included any evidence of human trafficking at the spa.
“The police are making this case that this is a major human trafficking ring, and that’s why it’s so serious,” Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor, told The Wall Street Journal, which originally reported on the offer. “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.”
It’s unclear if Kraft will agree to the provision, which would also call for completion of an education course about prostitution and 100 hours of community service. When charges were first announced in February, a spokesman for Kraft denied that he had engaged in any illegal action.
Whether or not Kraft agrees to the deal, the controversy surrounding the billionaire’s alleged pursuit of a $64 sex act will not disappear for two reasons. The first is the bizarre connections of spa owner Cindy Yang, who has reportedly attempted to sell access to the Trump administration to businesses in China. The second, though less of a national security risk, is a greater concern for Kraft: the potential of a penalty being handed down by the N.F.L. Next week, the league — which has a well-known and largely unaddressed problem with women — will meet for its annual meeting in Phoenix. According to the New York Times, organizations supporting the survivors of sexual exploitation are planning to send a letter to the league making the long-shot request that it ban Kraft from owning the Patriots.