Robert Kraft, the owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, is being offered a deferred prosecution agreement in which he would not be required to plead guilty to any charges surrounding his visits to a Florida spa in January that was under investigation for sex trafficking and prostitution, a prosecutor in the case announced on Tuesday.
Kraft is facing two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution for allegedly visiting the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida on two occasions earlier this year and paying for sexual favors from the massage parlor’s staff.
The proposed pre-trial diversion program would require Kraft to either acknowledge guilt or admit that he would have been proven guilty at trial, according to the spokesperson for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, Mike Edmondson.
While Kraft is currently facing a statutory maximum of one year in jail, if he were to accept the plea agreement, the misdemeanor charges would be dropped. As part of the statute, Kraft would have to perform 100 hours of community service, attend a class on the dangers of prostitution and pay a $5,000 fine per count, according to Edmondson.
The deal has been offered to Kraft and 24 other men charged in the case. No one has accepted the deal so far, Edmondson said.
The Wall Street Journal first reported news of a proposed deal.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg tweeted in response to the newspaper’s tweet of their story on the plea deal that…”The offer of a deferred prosecution agreement with several conditions to first time offenders is standard in cases like this.”
Correction: The offer of a deferred prosecution agreement with several conditions to first time offenders is standard in cases like this. https://t.co/6TvDHQo5fZ
— Dave Aronberg (@aronberg) March 19, 2019
It was not immediately clear whether Kraft would accept such an offer. None of his three primary defense attorneys immediately responded to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the Jupiter Police Department, which conducted the investigation, referred requests for comment to the prosecutor’s office.
The Patriots team owner had pleaded not guilty and opted for a non-jury trial, before a judge — while assembling a powerhouse team of high-profile Florida criminal defense attorneys.
Florida criminal defense attorney Mark O’Mara said that the Kraft deal is best outcome he could hope for short of a dismissal of the charges.
“In a pre-trial diversion, you divert the case away from the criminal justice system into what I’d call a pre-plea probation,” said O’Mara, who won George Zimmerman’s acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges in the fatal 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.
“This is a variant of a pre-trial diversion … In my opinion, a deferred prosecution agreement is much more informal, more of a letter contract between the prosecution and the defense,” O’Mara said.
“It’s the best deal he can get, but I give kudos to his defense attorneys because they worked out the best deal they could without a complete dismissal. It’s the best of all worlds, because you’re not entering a plea.”
O’Mara said such deals are generally reserved for first-time offenders.
Even with the charges dropped, Kraft could still face discipline from the National Football League (NFL), which has a strict personal conduct policy.
The policy reads, in part, that “[i]t is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”
Twenty-five people were charged in the sting at the Jupiter spa, police said. Authorities set up hidden cameras at the spa and, Jupiter Police Detective Andrew Sharp said, there’s video evidence of all of the suspects participating in the alleged sexual acts.
Stacey James, a spokeswoman for Kraft, 77, said in a statement at the time that “[w]e categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has punished Kraft’s Patriots more severely than any other franchise during his tenure, according to ESPN. He fined them $250,000, and coach Bill Belichick $500,000, for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals in 2007. He fined the Patriots $1 million, stripped them of two draft choices and suspended quarterback Tom Brady as part of the 2015 “Deflategate” investigation.
News of the charges being dropped came the same day that a coalition of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking survivor networks wrote a letter calling on Super Bowl champions franchise, according to a letter released by the coalition on Tuesday.
“If the results of [an NFL] investigation show Mr. Kraft to have engaged in the purchase of women for sex, the NFL must banish Mr. Kraft from team ownership because men who purchase others for sex inflict inestimable amounts of human suffering on those they exploit for sex,” the letter reads, which goes on to call for the sports league to “take immediate action, rigorous measures to create a corporate and sport culture that respects others by rejecting all forms of sexual objectification, harassment, assault, and exploitation of women by owners, coaches, players, team personnel, and others associated with the NFL.”
“The prostitution marketplace is the context in which most sexual exploitation and sex trafficking transpire. The prostitution marketplace encompasses any of the various modes by which prostitution is marketed: strip clubs, massage parlors, ‘escort’ services, Internet-based prostitution websites, brothels, as well as pimp-facilitated, street-level prostitution, and pornography (i.e. – prostitution for mass consumption.)”
The coalition, which includes groups like Breaking the Silence Together, Veronica’s Voice, Freedom From Exploitation, Inc., DIGNITY House and the Survivor Leader Network, cite the NFL’s own Personal Conduct Policy, which describes misconduct as “conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsibl[y] put innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, or undercuts public support for the NFL.”
The NFL’s media representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
The allegations against Kraft come three weeks after the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams to win the team’s sixth Super Bowl title.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Kraft’s then-NFL record $175 million purchase of the Patriots in 1994.
ABC News’ Rachel Katz contributed to this story.
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