What charges could mean for Patriots owner Robert Kraft

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charges, South Florida police said Friday. Let’s take a closer look at what this story means.

What exactly are the charges?

Kraft is among more than 200 people, police say, who engaged in sex acts with employees of targeted massage parlors in South Florida. According to police, every person who will be charged was caught on videotape. Police said Kraft made two trips to the Orchids of Asia massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida, about one month ago, and thus faces two counts of the charge. Police said details about the charges against Kraft will not be released until next week.

Has Kraft been arrested?

No. A warrant will be issued, and his attorneys will be notified. In a statement, a spokesman for Kraft said he “categorically” denies “any illegal activity.”

Why was the massage parlor under surveillance?

This case was part of a larger crackdown on a human trafficking ring in the South Florida region, police said. According to TCPalm.com, affidavits obtained last week indicated that employees at Orchids of Asia were living at the parlor and were trapped there as part of the trafficking ring. Many of them are from China, according to the report.

What is Kraft’s legal jeopardy?

The charge is punishable with up to 60 days in jail, six months of probation and $500 in fines, according to Florida law.

Is there any possibility these charges will result in Kraft having to sell the Patriots?

Almost certainly not, but he is subject to NFL discipline on an individual level.

Why?

Everyone in the NFL, including owners, are subject to the league’s personal conduct policy. The policy covers “conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible, puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL,” per its text. Owners and club or league management are held to higher standards under the policy and are “subject to more significant discipline when violations … occur.”

The league released this statement on Friday: “The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments.”

So what kind of punishment could that lead to?

There isn’t much precedent here, but most recently Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended six games and fined $500,000 in 2014. Irsay had been arrested on drug charges and ultimately pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Irsay also admitted to a judge that he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone. In 2010, Detroit Lions team president Tom Lewand was suspended for 30 days and fined $100,000 after a guilty plea to driving while impaired.

Lewand and Irsay pleaded guilty, but Kraft denies he broke the law.

That will be determined by the judicial process. But the NFL has made clear that guilty verdicts aren’t required for league discipline. The policy states: “It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”

So Kraft could be exonerated and still face discipline from the NFL?

In theory, yes.

Is Goodell up to disciplining Robert Kraft, one of the NFL’s most powerful owners?

Goodell has punished Kraft’s Patriots more severely than any other franchise during his tenure. He fined them $250,000, and coach Bill Belichick $500,000, for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals in 2007. In 2015, Goodell fined the Patriots $1 million, stripped them of two draft choices and suspended quarterback Tom Brady as part of the Deflategate investigation. Kraft threatened legal action against the league but eventually backed off.

If Kraft is suspended, who would operate the team?

That’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, but the Patriots are a family-run business. Kraft’s son Jonathan is the team president and presumed heir to the franchise.

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