Prosecutors Offer to Drop Kraft's Charges, But There's A Catch

Investigators say they caught New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaging in sex acts at an illicit massage parlor twice on video surveillance

Prosecutors in Florida have offered to drop charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft if he were to concede he would be found guilty during his trial.

The Palm Beach County Attorney's Office confirmed the proposed agreement, which has also been offered to 24 other men accused in the widespread soliciting prostitution sting, would also require defendants to complete an education course, 100 hours of community service and a screening for sexually transmitted diseases.

"The offer of a deferred prosecution agreement with several conditions to first time offenders is standard in cases like this," State Attorney Dave Aronberg said in a tweet.

Those who would concede that they would have been found guilty would also be ordered to pay $5,000 per count. In return, the charges of misdemeanor soliciting prostitution would be dropped. A spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office said none have accepted so far.

Kraft's attorney Jack Goldberger did not immediately return a call seeking comment, and Patriots spokesman Stacey James refused comment.

The 77-year-old Brookline, Massachusetts, native was charged with two counts of soliciting another for prostitution, a misdemeanor, in February after investigators revealed they had caught him on video engaging in sex acts in an illicit massage parlor in Jupiter, including once hours before the team's AFC Championship Game this year.

Kraft has denied all charges. His arraignment in a Palm Beach County courtroom is slated for March 28, but his attorneys have said he's not required to face a judge.

If he refuses the deal, he would be put on trial and, if found guilty, face a possible year in jail, although that would be unlikely.

Kraft is one of about 300 men charged in multiple counties between Palm Beach and Orlando as part of a crackdown on illicit massage parlors and human trafficking. Ten parlors have been closed and employees have also been charged. Many of the women are originally from China, were forced to live in the spas and were not allowed to leave without an escort, according to investigators.

The owner of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, the Jupiter, Florida, parlor Kraft is accused of visiting, is charged with 29 felony prostitution and related charges. Authorities investigated the 10 parlors for months, gathering evidence through interviews with men stopped leaving the spas, trash bin searches and surveillance of the spa owners. Judges then issued warrants allowing them to secretly install cameras inside the spas to record what transpired.

Police said they have video of Orchids of Asia employees performing various sex acts with two dozen customers. Owner Hua Zhang, 58, has pleaded not guilty.

Sheriff William Snyder of neighboring Martin County spearheaded the massage parlor crackdown. He said in a recent interview with The Associated Press the traditional route of only charging parlor owners and their employees while ignoring their customers doesn't work. He said the only way massage parlor prostitution and its related human trafficking will be curtailed is to charge the men, too.

Police say Kraft visited Orchids of Asia twice in late January just before he flew to Kansas City to see the Patriots defeat the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.

According to police records, Kraft was chauffeured to the massage parlor in a 2014 white Bentley on the evening of Jan. 19, where officers say they secretly videotaped him engaging in a sex act and then handing over an undetermined amount of cash.

Investigators said Kraft returned 17 hours later, arriving at the upper-middle class shopping center where the spa was located in a chauffeured 2015 blue Bentley, the documents said. Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was videotaped engaging in sex acts before paying with a $100 bill and another bill, police said. Hours later, he was in Kansas City for the game. His team then won the Super Bowl in Atlanta, the Patriots' sixth NFL championship under his ownership.

The NFL has not taken any action against Kraft but has said its personal conduct policy "applies equally to everyone in the NFL" and it will handle "this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy."

A coalition of sexual exploitation survivors and advocacy groups Tuesday called on the NFL to ban Kraft from team ownership since he was charged last month with soliciting prostitution.

The group sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying the New England Patriots' owner should, at a minimum, be suspended six games, and should be banned from owning a team if found guilty of the charges he faces.

Kraft, who made his initial fortune through a packaging company, bought the Patriots in 1994 for $172 million to keep the team from moving to St. Louis. He hired Bill Belichick as coach in 2000, and the team later drafted quarterback Tom Brady, launching its nearly two decades of success.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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