Robert Kraft Facing First Degree Misdemeanor in Prostitution Case

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, was charged on Monday with two first degree misdemeanors stemming from accusations of soliciting prostitution in Florida.

Should Mr. Kraft be convicted, he could face up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service, said State Attorney Dave Aronberg of Palm Beach County on Monday.

On Friday, the Jupiter, Fla., police had filed two second degree charges against Mr. Kraft, but the final decision was Mr. Aronberg’s, and he heightened the severity of the charges. He is one of 25 men facing charges in the case.

“Human trafficking is evil in our midst,” Mr. Aronberg said. “It is fueled on the demand side.”

Mr. Aronberg said it was unlikely a first-time offender would spend time in jail.

“Our office treats everyone the same, whether you have a lot of money or are indigent. No one gets special treatment in Palm Beach County.”

Mr. Aronberg said that Mr. Kraft was considered a local resident. So he has received a summons in the mail. He will not be booked into the local jail or appear in a mug shot and his lawyer can appear on his behalf in court.

The affidavit said that one of Mr. Kraft’s visits was at 11 a.m. on Jan. 20, the day of the A.F.C. championship game.

“This is not about lonely old men or victimless crime,” Mr. Aronberg said. “This is about enabling a network of criminals to traffic women into our country for forced labor and sex.”

The N.F.L. said Monday that Kraft would not receive special treatment as the league decides how, or if, to punish him.

Mr. Kraft, 77, faces two misdemeanor counts in Florida. He was recorded on hidden camera engaging in sexual acts for money, the police said, as part of an investigation into prostitution and human trafficking that has resulted in charges for hundreds of men.

In a statement released Monday morning, the N.F.L. said: “Our Personal Conduct Policy applies equally to everyone in the N.F.L. We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy. We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.”

Through the Patriots, Mr. Kraft has denied engaging in illegal activity.

Mr. Kraft is among the highest-profile owners of an N.F.L. team. His Patriots have won six Super Bowls since he bought the franchise. He is a member of the league’s powerful broadcast committee, as well as the compensation committee that sets Commissioner Roger Goodell’s salary, and he is a friend and political benefactor of President Trump.

It is Mr. Goodell who now could be in a position to fine or suspend Mr. Kraft for his conduct.

The N.F.L. gives Mr. Goodell broad authority to hold players and owners accountable for conduct he deems detrimental to the league. Previous punishments have included fines and suspensions, but also prohibitions that have barred owners from being at their team facilities or attending games.

Most recently, the league has drawn attention for its discipline against several players accused — but not necessarily convicted — of domestic abuse.

The N.F.L. maintains a “Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List” for players who are being investigated by the league for their conduct. This is the list that Kareem Hunt, the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, landed on after video emerged of him pushing and kicking a woman. (The Chiefs cut him shortly after the video became public; Hunt signed with the Cleveland Browns earlier this month, though he has not yet been cleared to play.)

Players on the exempt list cannot practice or attend games but continue to be paid. It is not clear whether Mr. Goodell would place an owner on such a list pending the outcome of an investigation.

Mr. Goodell is, ultimately, hired and paid by the owners, making his decision on potential discipline for a powerful one like Mr. Kraft a tricky one.

Mr. Kraft and Mr. Goodell had been considered to be longtime allies. Their relationship was strained, however, by two earlier punishments for the Patriots: first when Mr. Goodell disciplined the team over spying on other teams in 2007, and later when he penalized the team and quarterback Tom Brady in the ball deflation case of 2015.

Mr. Kraft is accused of patronizing a spa called Orchids of Asia, a small storefront business in a strip mall in Jupiter, Fla. The police said Mr. Kraft had visited twice, dropped off by a driver.

While Mr. Kraft lives in Massachusetts, he has owned property in Palm Beach, Fla., for a number of years.

Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.

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