Palm Beach, FL – Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft was expected to turn down a plea deal from prosecutors that would require him to admit they have enough evidence to convict him.
The Palm Beach County State’s Attorney’s Office offered the same deal to Kraft and 24 other men caught on video paying for sex at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in February, ESPN reported.
Under the proposed deal, the men would pay a $5,000 fine for each offense, take an education class about prostitution, submit to sexually transmitted disease testing, and admit in court that they would have been found guilty if their cases had gone to trial.
Kraft is facing two counts, and would owe $10,000 in fines under the agreement, ESPN reported.
But it isn’t about the money – the problem is that an admission by Kraft could put him in the crosshairs of the National Football League’s (NFL) conduct policy.
ESPN reported that Kraft would rather fight the charges than trigger discipline from the football league.
Joel Hirschhorn, a Miami-based attorney who is not working on Kraft’s defense team, said the Patriots’ owner would be better off accepting the diversion deal that would eventually expunge his case and seal all the evidence, the Sun Sentinel reported.
“It’s clearly in his best interest to own up to this and move on with his life. The notion of going to trial from a legal perspective is foolish,” Hirschhorn said. “They have apparently video surveillance, they might even encourage one of the employees to become a witness… to testify… He doesn’t need this. His trial will be televised; it’s not in his best personal interest.”
The attorney said Kraft will likely face sanctions from the NFL regardless of the outcome of the trial, the Sun Sentinel reported.
ESPN reported that Kraft’s legal team has filed a motion to suppress the video evidence from the massage parlor, which has been described as graphic and damning by law enforcement.
The motion asked the video be kept from release even if he doesn’t accept the plea deal, according to ESPN.
Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr announced misdemeanor charges against Patriots owner Robert Kraft at a press conference on Feb. 22.
“We’re as equally stunned as everybody else,” Chief Kerr told reporters.
He said that the 77-year-old Kraft was being charged with two counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution after he was caught doing so on video on two separate occasions.
“The video that we obtained, it shows the act that took place…” Palm Beach Police Detective Andrew Sharp told reporters definitively.
The charges were announced after authorities raided the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter.
TCPalm reported that Orchids of Asia was only one of 10 massage parlors that were shut down in Palm Beach County, and other nearby counties, after a months-long investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies.
Police surveillance revealed a busy spa with a clientele of male customers who visited for 30 and 60-minute periods between 9 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Detectives also learned that the women who worked in the spa also lived there, and were not allowed to leave, TCPalm reported.
Many of the trapped women are from China.
According to the police affidavit, at least three women told investigators they were forced to live in the small shop inside the strip mall and work in deplorable conditions, WBZ reported.
Police arrested the spa’s owner, 58-year-old Hua Zhang, according to TCPalm.
Zhang has been charged with deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution, keeping and frequenting a house of prostitution, and 26 counts of procuring for prostitution.
Det. Sharp said that police believe Kraft was a fairly regular customer of the massage parlor.
Police conducted surveillance on the day spa from Jan. 18 through Jan. 22, and Kraft visited twice during that time period, despite the fact he was also away in Kansas City for the playoffs on Jan. 20.
Det. Sharp said Kraft was chauffeured to the Orchids of Asia on the two occasions he was filmed soliciting and having sex with the prostitutes.
Kraft’s driver will not be charged in connection with his employer’s crimes, the detective said.
He would not say with what or how much Kraft had paid for the women’s sexual services.
“It appears when you go to the spa for a half hour the fee would be $59, for an hour that would be $79,” the detective said, but he would not elaborate on the details of tips or additional fees.
The detective refused to expand on what specific acts the Patriots’ owner was filmed doing or receiving, and referred to the charging affidavit.
“The question was does the video contain Mr. Kraft inside receiving the alleged acts – the answer to that is yes,” he clarified.
Kraft is a long-time seasonal resident of Palm Beach, TCPalm reported.
He is facing up to a year in jail, probation, or fines for the two misdemeanors.
“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further,” a spokesman for Kraft said in a statement.
Kraft bought the New England Patriots for $172 million in 1994, WBZ reported.
The Patriots have played in 10 Super Bowl games – and won six of them – under Kraft’s ownership, TCPalm reported.