Multiple news sources across the Nation are reporting that New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft has been charged with – but not yet arrested for – two counts of solicitation of a prostitute in Jupiter, Florida. The charges apparently stem from a months-long investigation into prostitution and human trafficking activity alleged to have occurred at a Day Spa Kraft is alleged to have attended. While the New England Patriots vehemently deny Kraft’s guilt, Jupiter law enforcement says otherwise, and claims to have video surveillance depicting Kraft being driven to and from the spa, as well as engaging in sexual acts inside of the spa. If what the police in Florida are saying is accurate, there should be relatively damning evidence which would militate in favor of Kraft seeking to negotiate a favorable plea as soon as possible.
Presumably, Kraft has been charged under Florida Statute796.07(2)(f) – Solicitation of Prostitution – which is committed when a person solicits, induces, entices, or procures another person to engage in prostitution, lewdness, or assignation. Assuming Kraft is indeed a first offender, he faces up to one year jail, 1 year of probation, and up to $1,000.00 in fines. It’s worth noting that under Florida law, both second and third-time solicitation offenders can be charged with felonies which obviously have enhanced penalties.
So, what charges would apply if the same crimes Kraft is alleged to have committed occurred here in New York? Kraft would likely face charges under Penal Law 230.04 – Patronizing a Person for Prostitution in the Third Degree – which is a Class “A” misdemeanor. Penal Law 230.03(a) defines patronizing a person for prostitution as the payment of a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her. Subsection (b) includes paying or agreeing with another to engage in sexual conduct with another, while subsection (c) includes the mere solicitation or request to do so.
While Florida gradates patronizing a prostitute by the number of prior convictions for the same offense, New York gradates the crime by the age of the person being patronized for the prostitution. Thus, Patronizing a Prostitute in the Second Degree (a Class “E” Felony) makes it illegal for a person 18 years or older to patronize a person less than 15 years old for prostitution. See Penal Law 230.05. If a person over 18 patronizes a person under 13 years old, or a person of any age patronizes a person under 11 years old, then the first degree charge applies under Penal Law 230.06. Additionally, if a person patronizes a person for prostitution in a school zone, the charges are elevated from a Class “A” misdemeanor to a Class “E” felony.
What punishment will Robert Kraft face? As a first offender, jail is extremely unlikely. In the Courts of New York, defense attorneys are usually able to steer a client away from further incarceration on their first offense, and possibly even negotiate a disposition which does not involve a crime. To be sure, these charges are common since New York City Police Department’s undercover Vice squad routinely runs similar operations to the one that led to Kraft’s arrest. While evidence of guilty might be strong, whether or not such an arrest leads to a permanent criminal record may certainly be up for debate.