Several weeks after America gasped in shocked amazement after prosecutors announced that some of the most wealthy and powerful people had been busted in a sting operation targeting a Jupiter, Florida strip mall spa where they paid about $70 for a rub and tug, and were charged with prostitution, on Tuesday Florida prosecutors offered to drop charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a number of other men - including several Wall Street legends - charged with soliciting prostitution... but there is a catch.
As the WSJ reports, the settlement offered calls for the men to admit they would have been proven guilty at trial, in other words, unlike a typical SEC settlement where a party can get away with neither admitting nor denying guilt, in this case, the "johns" have to admit guilt.
While the proposed deferred prosecution agreement calls for completion of an education course about prostitution, completion of 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and payment of some court costs, it also includes the unusual provision for the defendants to review the evidence in the case and agree that, if it were to go to trial, the state would be able to prove their guilt, a WSJ source said.
It isn’t clear whether Kraft and others would accept such a condition, especially since when the charges were announced, a spokesman for Mr. Kraft denied he engaged in illegal activity.
Perhaps the proposal is not that bizarre: a spokesman for the Florida attorney’s office said that it is the standard resolution for first-time offenders, or they go to trial.
While Kraft, whose Patriots won the Super Bowl in February, was one of more than two dozen men charged with solicitation last month in Jupiter as part of a multi-city investigation into multiple South Florida spas, and was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution, acts prosecutors say were caught on video surveillance.
Kraft has pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, legal experts have raised questions about the tactics Jupiter, Fla., police used in obtaining search warrants for an investigation they said was intended to stop a growing human trafficking problem.
Here's why it is odd: prosecutors and law-enforcement officials described the investigation as a probe into human trafficking and portrayed the men who patronized the spas as contributing to the demand for sex slavery.
In announcing the charges, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, had called human trafficking “evil in our midst,” echoing the rhetoric of law-enforcement officials. And yet, several weeks later, not one person has actually been charged with human trafficking. In fact, prosecutors’ affidavits have not detailed evidence of human trafficking at Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
“The police are making this case that this is a major human trafficking ring, and that’s why it’s so serious,” said Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor and managing partner of Tucker Levin, PLLC who is not connected to the case. “The fact that they had cameras installed in the locations for so long somewhat undermines the claim that there was an extraordinary danger to the people working in the establishment.”
As the WSJ further notes, the Jupiter Police Department began its investigation in October, according to affidavits and in January installed covert surveillance equipment.
Men who visited the spas, including Mr. Kraft, were seen engaging in sex acts and identified after their visits on traffic stops, according to court documents. Legal experts have said the traffic stops could be argued as pretextual.
Prosecutors alleged they saw Mr. Kraft, 77 years old, enter Orchids of Asia Day Spa, located in a small strip mall, on two occasions and saw him pay cash and receive sex acts, which while striking some as bizarre that a billionaire would frequent a low-grade strip mall rub and tug instead of hiring "perfect 10s", is hardly the pinnacles of crimes being conducted in US society in recent years. Regardless of the ethical framing, Kraft was identified in a traffic stop after his first visit on Jan. 19, when he was the passenger in a vehicle, and visited the spa again the next day, before the Patriots played the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
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Even if he were to accept the agreement, Kraft could still face punishment from the NFL, which has said in regards to him that the league’s “personal conduct policy applies equally to everyone.” The league said it would “take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.” The league has previously disciplined players in cases where they were not prosecuted.
“I think Kraft’s biggest problem is going to be NFL management,” David Weinstein, a Miami lawyer and former prosecutor in the Southern District of Florida, told the WSJ. “Their standards are far lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”