New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft reportedly rejected a proposed deal that would have required him to admit Florida prosecutors could prove he had solicited prostitution, and his attorneys on Wednesday asked a judge to keep video footage of the alleged sexual encounters out of public view.
Kraft believes the offer of a deal, which the Palm Beach County state attorney’s office said was standard for first-time misdemeanor offenders, pushed the legal requirements for “deferred prosecution” beyond what is routinely expected, a person familiar with Kraft’s legal strategy said Wednesday.
The offer typically requires defendants to acknowledge that prosecutors have enough evidence to possibly persuade a jury they are guilty, said the person who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the case. That leaves room for defendants to assert that they might have been acquitted if the case had gone to trial.
In Kraft’s case, prosecutors said they would drop the charges only if he acknowledged that he would have been proven guilty of the charges, something Kraft is adamant he will never do, the person said.
The ally said negotiations are continuing between Kraft’s legal team, which includes Florida-based attorney Jack A. Goldberger, and Palm Beach prosecutors. Goldberger could not be reached for comment.
On Wednesday, attorneys for Kraft and 14 other men charged with soliciting prostitution at Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., filed a joint motion arguing evidence in the case should be considered exempt from public disclosure and that confidentiality of the evidence be safeguarded. Video recordings made at the spa depict the defendants “engaged in alleged sexual acts,” according to the motion.
Scott Skier, an attorney representing one of the defendants in the case, called the motion a “proactive step to ensure that the media does not seek to gain access to evidence, here the videos, where there is no legal basis to disclose that evidence.”
Skier noted that the evidence could potentially become public if it were subject to discovery, which is the exchange of information that occurs between each side in a case.
“[S]o, if a party chooses to fight, and video evidence does exist, then that evidence will be made public,” Skier said in an e-mail.
Florida prosecutors could not be reached for comment. If Kraft does not accept the offer, prosecutors plan to take the case to trial, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Kraft and 24 other men were charged as part of a lengthy investigation by Jupiter, Fla., police into the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, which authorities have said is connected to a large human trafficking ring.
Under the proposed deferred prosecution deal and Florida law, the defendants would be required to perform 100 hours of community service, pay court fees, and attend a course about the social harm caused by prostitution and human trafficking. In exchange, defendants can have their cases dismissed and records expunged if they avoid further charges.
The next court date in Kraft’s case is March 28, according to court records.
A pair of Florida defense attorneys not involved with the case said Wednesday that Kraft is unlikely to face time behind bars if he is convicted, and that may have played a role in his decision.
“If he’s found guilty at trial, I can’t imagine he’s going to get anything more than probation,” said Richard Greenberg, the president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Eric M. Matheny concurred.
“My impression is that he’s 77, he’s a first-time misdemeanor offender, he’s not looking at any jail time,” he said. “He’s looking at probation.”
Kraft may also be looking to protect his public image, said Matheny, “and he’s got the money to fight it.”
Jordan Wagner, a defense attorney who represents at least 15 clients who face charges in the wider Florida sex trafficking sweep that prompted the closure of multiple massage parlors in the area, said Tuesday that his clients had also been offered a demanding deal.
He said that under the deal, defendants would have to provide a sworn statement detailing their knowledge of illicit activity at the day spa in question, and they would have to accept responsibility for their actions and agree that if the case were to go to trial, the state “would be able to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Wagner declined to say whether his clients had decided to accept the offer.
For Kraft, the statement of responsibility included in the deal may have contributed to his decision to reject the offer, said Matheny. He may be concerned that if he accepts responsibility, he could face possible discipline from the NFL for violating its conduct policy, he said.
Prosecutors have said that if Kraft does not accept the offer, they plan to take the case to trial. Kraft previously requested a bench trial, meaning one without a jury.
“Bench trial tells me that they’re focused on an issue of law,” said Matheny on Wednesday. “Jury trial tells me that they’re focused on an issue of fact.”
The investigation by Jupiter police was part of a larger law enforcement probe into human trafficking in the region. That has led to charges against some 200 men who allegedly visited spas in three counties.
In Jupiter, police secretly installed a video camera in the spa.
Authorities say that Kraft was twice captured on video entering the spa, having a sex act performed on him, and then leaving the spa.
The National Football League has said it is aware of the charges against Kraft.