New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft could soon face felony charges after the prostitution bust at a Florida spa earlier this year as prosecutors look to be ramping up the pressure on Kraft.
As the Sun-Sentinel reported, Florida prosecutors appear to be putting the squeeze on the billionaire NFL owner nearly a year after he allegedly paid for a sex act at a massage parlor in Jupiter. Prosecutors are arguing that the two misdemeanor counts of soliciting a prostitute now actually constitute a felony, which the report noted was an unusual move for state prosecutors.
“I literally have never seen that enhancement used in any county,” longtime criminal defense attorney Jack Fleischman, who has no connection to the case, told the Sun-Sentinel. “It has to be rare,” he added.
As the report noted, Kraft visited the spa twice in January, once the day before the Patriots competed in the AFC Championship Game and again the morning of the contest. He has maintained his innocence since first being charged, and the legal proceedings have now dragged on for close to a year.
The state has issued a court filing arguing that Kraft could face a third-degree felony that could land him in prison for up to five years, though the state would first have to win an appeal from a judge. Kraft has already won in court, having secretly filmed video from inside the spa thrown out after a judge ruled that police did not have a proper warrant to run cameras continuously for five days inside the spa. Legal experts said that with the dismissal, Kraft could be able to win an acquittal.
Back in May, a report from CNBC noted that the prosecution’s case was on “thin ice” after Kraft’s legal team won the dismissal of video evidence. The report added that the ruling could have opened the door to a judge dismissing charges against Kraft, but that did not happen and prosecutors now appear to be moving even more aggressively in seeking a conviction of the New England Patriots owner.
Close to 300 men were charged in the sting, along with the owners and employees of the spa. While a number took plea bargains, Kraft indicated that he planned to fight the charges. The bid to upgrade the misdemeanor charges into a felony was seen by some as an attempt by prosecutors to force Kraft into pleading to the charges rather than fighting in court.