New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was arrested last week for solicitation, as part of a raid on massage parlor establishments in a particular area of Florida. One accusation that has repeatedly come up in the media coverage of the case was that the massage parlor was engaged in human trafficking.
Kraft himself, per ESPN, was charged with two counts of solicitation, and law enforcement has obtained video evidence that the 77-year-old NFL owner engaged in sex acts. Kraft, per video, visited the parlor on the morning of January 20, the same day the Patriots played the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.
But while police in the area initially billed the raid as an anti-sex trafficking operation, as of now, per Deadspin, no one in connection with the bust has been hit with human trafficking charges. Men caught in the sting were charged with solicitation, while the operators of the various establishments were hit with such charges, per People, as deriving profits from prostitution and “maintaining a house of ill fame.” The Deadspin piece found that two-to-six “possible victims” have been identified as part of the overarching sting, though not at the specific, Jupiter, Fla., establishment that Kraft is said to have visited.
In addition, per another ESPN report Tuesday, the two women arrested in the sting who are “associated with” Kraft were probably not trafficked; one of them, reporter T.J. Quinn said, is around 40-years-old, while the other is 58-years-old and “has a valid New York drivers license.” Both women, Quinn said on the air, have massage licenses in Florida.
Reason magazine, a libertarian publication, has frequently written about what it calls a pattern of American law enforcement agencies referencing human trafficking in initial press statements while busting houses of prostitution, only to never charge anyone with trafficking, and instead arresting women engaging in consensual sex work.
In the Florida case specifically, Reason said, police and prosecutors have not backed up any of their previous statements about human trafficking rings with any actual charges.
The site also quoted the Palm Beach district attorney as stating that “there’s no allegation that any defendant engaged in human trafficking.”
When it comes to Kraft’s eventual punishment, either by the legal system or when it comes to possible sanctions by his fellow NFL owners, there’s clearly a key difference between merely illegally paying for sex, and in being party to an international sex trafficking ring.