While it’s unusual for misdemeanor prosecutions to remain active for such a long period of time, the case involving Kraft, whose team has won six Super Bowls since 2002, has been complicated by the notoriety of the circumstances and questions with constitutional implications over privacy concerns.
How did the Robert Kraft case start?
Police in Jupiter, Florida, announced on Feb. 22, 2019, that Robert Kraft was being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting day spa employees to commit prostitution. He was one of numerous customers charged as part of a crackdown on human trafficking.
Investigators suspected that the business operators were forcing employees to perform sex acts on customers. It was revealed that Kraft, who has owned the New England Patriots since 1994, and 24 other defendants had been captured on video by cameras that police placed inside the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
Less than a month later, the defendants were offered a plea deal that would expunge their records in return for 100 hours of community service, $5,000 fines for each count, and attendance in a class focused on the dangers of prostitution. The defendants would also have to acknowledge that they would have been found guilty in a trial on the charges.
Instead of taking the deal, Kraft entered a not guilty plea. His legal team sought to suppress the video evidence on the grounds that the cameras were illegally installed by police, who purportedly called to the spa to investigate a bomb threat. They also asked that the court bar the videos from being released to the public.
How is the NFL handling Robert Kraft’s arrest?
If Robert Kraft, who has owned the New England Patriots throughout the enormously successful Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era, makes a plea deal or his case is ultimately heard in court and results in a guilty verdict, the New England Patriots owner could be sentenced to a maximum of 120 days in jail.
What the NFL will choose to do is uncertain. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced in May 2019 that the National Football League will take no disciplinary action against Kraft until the court case is resolved.
Privacy issue complicates the case
Robert Kraft’s lawyers were successful in getting the videos thrown out of court and in preventing their release to the media. Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser ruled that Jupiter police failed to minimize the instances in which videotaped activities were not related to crimes.
Prosecutors filed their appeal on Oct. 1, 2019, to get the videos restored as evidence. The appeal in the Kraft case and three others is now in the hands of 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach. Legal experts say it’s a classic privacy dispute related to the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
The prosecution, which contends Kraft has no legal standing to make a Fourth Amendment argument on behalf of spa customers who were videotaped but did not engage in illegal activities, and the defense have filed briefs with the appeals court and have requested the opportunity to make oral arguments.
If the court approves, the oral arguments would be heard no sooner than early this summer. The appeals court ruling would follow, which could trigger more rounds of appeals before a jury trial could commence in the Kraft case.