WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS/AP) – A new report indicates New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft may not be out of the woods regarding the charges filed against him during a Florida prostitution sting.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel has reported that Florida prosecutors are appealing the judge’s ruling that threw out video evidence in the case.
Kraft has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting a prostitute, but if the appeal is successful, prosecutors said they may file a felony charge, which carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.
Legal experts in Florida said elevating multiple misdemeanor charges to a felony would be a highly unusual move.
Kraft pleaded not guilty to two charges of soliciting a prostitute in February. He faced a year in jail and a $5,000 fine if convicted on both counts.
According to police records, Kraft was chauffeured to the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter on the evening of Jan. 19, where officers secretly recorded him engaging in a sex act with two women and then handing over an undetermined amount of cash.
Investigators said Kraft returned 17 hours later and was again videotaped engaging in sex acts with a woman before paying with a $100 bill and another bill, police said.
Hours later, Kraft was in Kansas City for the AFC Championship game, where his Patriots defeated the Chiefs. His team then won the Super Bowl in Atlanta, the Patriots’ sixth NFL championship under his ownership.
Prosecutors offered to drop the original charges if Kraft entered a diversion program for first-time offenders, as some others charged have. That would include an admission he would be found guilty if the case went to trial, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and attendance in a class on the dangers of prostitution and its connection to human trafficking. Prosecutors have said the fine and community service are required by law and are not negotiable.
When authorities announced the bust and charges against Kraft and two dozen other men, they said it was part of an investigation into possible human trafficking. But prosecutors later said in court that they concluded there was no evidence of human trafficking in the Jupiter spa.
Judge Leonard Hanser struck a major blow to the prosecution’s case when he ruled on May 13 that prosecution could not use video from inside the massage parlor in court. Hanser said Jupiter police detectives and the judge who issued the search warrant allowing the secret installation of cameras at the spa did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of other customers, some of whom only received legal massages.
Lawyers for Kraft filed a motion immediately after Hanser’s decision to try and prevent the video from ever being released. Public records law in Florida gives the media access to all records and evidence in court cases.
Kraft could also face disciplinary action from the NFL. The league said in an earlier statement that it “will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)