New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft accused of soliciting sex
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing charges of soliciting prostitution as part of a large-scale sex trafficking crackdown that has led to hundreds of arrest warrants in Florida, police said.
The 77-year-old billionaire is among more than 100 people linked to several central Florida day spas and massage parlors suspected of being used for prostitution and targeted by law enforcement during a monthslong investigation.
Police said Kraft visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, twice. Video footage shows him receiving “paid acts” in a room at the spa and surveillance video shows him being driven to the spa, police Chief Daniel Kerr said Friday.
Authorities said they wouldn’t immediately release video or documentation.
A spokesperson for Kraft has denied that he committed a crime.
“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further,” the spokesperson said.
Kristin Rightler, a Jupiter police spokeswoman, said Friday that Kraft has not been arrested.
People wearing football jerseys and others were seen taking group photos and selfies outside the door of the Jupiter spa on Friday.
Another billionaire also charged
John W. Childs — a billionaire and CEO of the private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates — is facing a charge of solicitation of prostitution in Vero Beach, Florida, about 50 miles north of Jupiter, police said.
CNN has reached out to Childs for comment.
Speaking with Bloomberg on Friday, Childs said he had not been contacted by police about the allegations.
“The accusation of solicitation of prostitution is totally false,” Childs said. “I have retained a lawyer.”
While all of those listed by Jupiter police, including Kraft, have allegedly been caught on video, it’s unclear whether there’s video of those named by other law enforcement agencies.
Authorities in Martin, Palm Beach and Indian River counties began releasing the names of the more than 100 patrons linked to the investigation earlier this week.
Their ages range from 19 to 84 years old, according to the Vero Beach police.
Several employees, including those who managed some of the spas, have also been arrested. Police said they have been charged with racketeering, deriving support from proceeds of prostitution and engaging or maintaining a place of prostitution.
What the charges mean for Kraft
Kraft is being charged with two counts of soliciting someone to commit prostitution, police said.
Mike Edmondson, a spokesman with the State Attorney’s Office in Palm Beach County, said the charges are second-degree misdemeanors and generally carry no more than a 60-day sentence in county jail.
CNN legal analyst Paul Callan says the solicitation charge often carries another punishment as well.
“They also have an interesting provision in Florida law that you have to complete 100 hours of community service and attend a prostitution and human trafficking awareness course,” Callan said.
Callan said that it’s unusual for the “johns” to get arrested.
Shared Hope International, a group working to stop sex trafficking, identifies “johns” as individuals who pay for “or trade something of value for sexual acts.”
“Usually the prostitute gets arrested or the person who’s running the brothel,” Callan said. “So this is an unusual approach, to round up the ‘johns.’ You see it happening periodically in jurisdictions where there’s a major prostitution problem and he just got caught in the net.”
What NFL has said so far
“The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments,” the league said later Friday.
The National Football League’s personal conduct policy includes the behavior of team owners.
According to the policy, “Everyone who is part of the league must refrain from ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in’ the NFL. This includes owners, coaches, players, other team employees, game officials, and employees of the league office, NFL Films, NFL Network, or any other NFL business.”
It also states that owners are held to a “higher standard.”
“Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur.”
Kraft also owns a soccer team
Kraft took ownership of the Patriots in January 1994. Since then, the NFL team has played in 10 Super Bowls, winning six of them, including this past season.
Kraft also is CEO of The Kraft Group, a holding company of numerous family businesses including International Forest Products, as well as Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution.
With his wife, Myra, he also oversaw the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. Myra Kraft passed away in 2011 at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer.
President Donald Trump, longtime friend of Kraft, said he was surprised and “very sad.”
“He’s proclaimed his innocence totally, but I’m very surprised to see it,” he said.
Kraft once reportedly gave the president a Super Bowl Ring after an earlier Patriot win. And Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Trump gave Kraft a Make America Great Again hat.