The prostitution charges against Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots football team, just got a lot more serious. Prosecutors say Kraft paid cash for sex acts on Jan. 19 and 20, 2019, in Florida. The misdemeanor charges have been fought vigorously by Kraft, who rejected plea deals in favor of aggressive counter-attacks. Those calculations may change, however, as prosecutors indicate they may now “add felony charges to what had been a misdemeanor case. The felonies carry five-year prison terms and a host of other negative impacts for the convicted.
Kraft was charged in the case after he and other defendants were alleged to have received sex acts that were captured on surveillance cameras installed in a spa by law enforcement. Hundreds of men were charged in a multi-county sting operation against sex for sale. After his arrest, Kraft was brought up on misdemeanor charges typical of prostitution cases in the Sunshine State, calling for “a term of imprisonment for up to 60 days, a fine in an amount up to $500, or both.”
Police used a ruse to gain access to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in the town of Jupiter, where they installed hidden cameras to monitor the goings-on. Monitor, they did. However, Kraft, a 78-year-old widower, won a big victory when Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser tossed out the videos. He ruled the warrants used to plant the cameras were legally insufficient, because of the extremely invasive nature of the surveillance and the failure to tie it to stringent safeguards or minimization efforts.
Misdemeanor to Felony
That ruling effectively killed the case against Kraft, and prosecutors appealed the ruling to the state appellate court. Prosecutors presented the upgraded charges in a filing made Dec. 17, but that has been stricken from the court’s docket because the filing was too long, violating court rules. The state of Florida seems to have gone out of its way to play fast and loose with the rules, filing eleventh-hour requests for delays after multiple forbearances from the court. We know about the new felony charges only because the brief was posted on the court’s website for a time and seen by Florida Sun-Sentinel reporters. In it, prosecutors seem to make the case that Kraft’s two visits make him eligible for felony prosecution, a last-minute explosive add-on. Per the Sun-Sentinel:
“’The investigation at issue here culminated in numerous felony charges against the owner, manager, and employees of the Spa,’ the state’s attorneys wrote on Dec. 17. ‘In addition, any person who purchased prostitution services on multiple days, as Mr. Kraft did, committed a felony.’”
The affidavit to secure the search warrant spoke of human trafficking, as did the prosecutors when announcing the arrest. There have been no such charges, however, and Kraft’s lawyers called the authorities liars. “Sheriff Will Snyder admitted that there was no human trafficking,” attorney William Burck told USA TODAY Sports in March. “He lied about it. His officers lied about it. I don’t really know what to say. I’ve never seen anything quite like that before.” Snyder then co-authored a piece with trafficking expert Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco called “Sex trafficking is hard to prove, that doesn’t mean it’s a lie,” making the point the title proclaims.
LibertyNation.com spoke with Mehlman-Orozco about the felony charges and sex trafficking claims. The author of Hidden in Plain Sight: America’s Slaves of the New Millennium says that felony charges for procuring prostitution are “very rare, but are increasing when the commercial sex exchange involves victims of sex trafficking or suspected victims of sex trafficking.” She expressed her “utmost confidence” in how law enforcement has handled the case, stating, “I believe the prosecutor’s office is certainly sending a message that procuring commercial sex services from suspected victims of sex trafficking, even inadvertently, will not be tolerated.”
The state of Florida has only days to file another reply brief compliant with state law.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.