The cloud hanging over the head of Robert Kraft for nearly 20 months is officially gone following the announcement that Florida prosecutors will not continue to pursue misdemeanor charges against the New England Patriots owner.
Robert Kraft’s arrest caused a scandal
There were 25 men arrested on misdemeanor counts of solicitation of prostitution in Jupiter, Florida, in January 2019. Only one of them garnered any meaningful news coverage. That’s because he happened to be Robert Kraft, owner of the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
The arrests stemmed from police surveillance of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. Despite facing the prospect of having to defend himself from hidden-camera evidence, which has not been made public, Kraft entered a plea of not guilty and set in motion a process that was unusually lengthy for a misdemeanor case.
Four of the men arrested settled their cases with guilty pleas that did not result in jail time.
Kraft’s lawyers said they had learned that the cameras were installed after police ordered the spa evacuated under the guise of a phony bomb threat, The Boston Globe reported.
Kraft’s legal team got the video footage thrown out by arguing that the use of cameras by the police resulted in video also being captured of customers who received legitimate services. The court’s ruling led prosecutors to file an appeal that was heard earlier this year.
In the meantime, Kraft, 79, became the subject of some public ridicule. Besides owning one of the most successful – and valuable – franchises in the NFL, he has been considered influential in helping form league policy.
Prosecutors dropped the charges in Florida
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is out from under the cloud of misdemeanor sex-for-cash charges after prosecutors lost a ruling in a Florida appellate court over whether video surveillance tapes could be entered into evidence.
“Without the videos, we don’t have a case we can prosecute,” Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, told reporters on Sept. 24, according to the New York Times. As a result, “we are ethically compelled to drop all the charges.”
The misdemeanor charges against Kraft and 20 other men have been dropped, although prosecutors are expected to continue felony prostitution-related cases against the owner and manager of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa. One employee said she was forced to work against her will, Aronberg said.
Robert Kraft may not be completely in the clear
In announcing that the misdemeanor charges against the remaining defendants would be dropped, Dave Aronberg said the case was “never about one individual.” But the state attorney for Palm Beach County made it fairly evident that he was unhappy with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft about “economic inequities” allowing wealthy defendants to hire high-powered lawyers, the New York Times reported.
Aronberg should be able to take some satisfaction in the possibility that Kraft might be in the clear legally but not professionally. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to impose a fine or suspension on Kraft despite the decision by Florida prosecutors to drop the case.
Goodell’s intentions are unknown for now. He announced in May 2019 that the league would take no disciplinary action against Kraft until the court case was resolved.
In order to act against Kraft, Goodell only needs to determine that the league’s personal conduct policy prohibiting “conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football” was violated.
Goodell fined former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson $2.75 million 2018 following accusations he mistreated female employees. Of course, it would take a huge fine to make a dent in the fortune of Kraft, a billionaire several times over.