Kraft seems headed to a courtroom victory, but there’s one court left
I never had the slightest interest in watching the video evidence of Bob Kraft’s alleged exploits at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, and you probably didn’t, either.
Still, the criminal solicitation case against the New England Patriots owner has unraveled with remarkable speed. Thanks to what must be one of the largest and most expensive legal teams ever assembled to fight two misdemeanors, Kraft has made quick work of the Florida law enforcement officials who seemed so excited to charge him back in February.
A judge in Palm Beach County Court Monday ruled that the video evidence in the case cannot be used as evidence. Even the evidence from the subsequent traffic stop at which Kraft was positively identified has been tossed. Make no mistake, this ruling eviscerates the case against Kraft. Barring something truly remarkable, this prosecution is history.
The evidence was thrown out on the grounds that the search warrant under which the videos were made violated the privacy of innocent spa customers who were filmed getting massages even though they weren’t under investigation for anything criminal.
“The fact that some totally innocent women and men had their entire lawful time spent in a massage room fully recorded and viewed intermittently by a detective-monitor is unacceptable and results from the lack of sufficient pre-monitoring written guidelines,” the judge wrote. In other words, the local police bungled the case.
If the charges against Kraft end up being dismissed, this will be viewed by a large segment of the public as an example of a very rich man buying his way out of a jam. I also think that judgment is fair. Most people in his situation would have quickly pleaded guilty, given the evidence against them.
On the other hand, I think it’s also clear that the prosecutors and local sheriffs involved oversold the whole idea of a “human trafficking ring,” certainly in terms of anything they could actually prove. Though they claimed to have busted a sprawling multicounty operation, they could never make that case.
Rebranding prostitution as human trafficking has had the positive effect of shifting the blame where it really belongs — onto the people who exploit women engaging in sex work, rather than punishing the victims of that exploitation. But it’s also much harder to prove. I’m not shocked that local law enforcement in South Florida couldn’t deliver the goods.
Assuming the criminal case against Kraft is near expiration, he still has to deal the with NFL, which can fine or suspend him for violating its personal conduct policy, conviction or no conviction. I believe much of the reason he fought so hard was to preserve his reputation within the league. He wants to be in his luxury box when the next championship banner is hoisted at Gillette Stadium this fall, and he dearly wants to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We’ll see what his frenemy Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, has in store for him.
Most Patriots fans don’t seem to care what Kraft did or didn’t do, which is a bit sad. His fan base has rallied around him, as demonstrated by the cheers that went up when his face appeared on a TD Garden Jumbotron recently. Kraft isn’t evil, but he’s not a martyr, either. At best, he did something truly reckless and may emerge unscathed.
If Kraft really wants his reputation back, he has work to do. He should deliver a full-throated apology for participating, however unwittingly, in exploitation. He should throw himself, and his checkbook, into the work he has supported in the past to support victims of human trafficking, through groups like My Life My Choice. He should display genuine public remorse.
Largely thanks to his riches, Kraft is close to escaping legal wrath. But redemption is another matter. In the face of excellent defense counsel, the courts in Florida folded like blackjack players holding a lousy hand.
Kraft can only hope that the public will prove so forgiving.