By Cam Smith ’21
The New England Patriots have been no stranger to controversy over the years, and this time it goes all the way to the top. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting someone for sex.
The allegations stem from a six-month long investigation into human trafficking by Florida state officials, focusing on massage parlors in central Florida strip malls. The Kraft accusations center around the spa, Orchids of Asia, in Jupiter, Florida, a location only 30 minutes away from Kraft’s home in Palm Beach.
Investigation of Orchids of Asia began after a state health inspector noticed that the spa housed two rooms with items such as pillows, sheets, and dressers filled with clothes and medicine. A refrigerator of foodstuffs was also located. The inspector reported these findings to Jupiter police, as the conditions of the spa insinuated that some of the staff were indeed making it their permanent residence. These circumstances are what officials look for in cases of human trafficking, as often victims are restricted in their freedom of movement.
On Jan. 17, Jupiter police installed secret surveillance equipment inside of Orchids of Asia. On Jan. 19, Jupiter officials alleged that Kraft was caught on camera paying for services at the front desk. Cameras also reportedly show him undressing and laying on a massage bed where a female employee can be seen “manipulating his genitals.” Kraft would return the following morning to the spa, mere hours before flying to Kansas City to watch the Patriots defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. The Jupiter police department has yet to release the footage.
As many as 200 other men will also be charged in an investigation that Florida officials call, “the tip of the iceberg.” So far, no charges of human trafficking have been issued in any of the cases.
On Feb. 25, Kraft pleaded not guilty to the two misdemeanor counts facing him. A lawyer representing the Patriots owner requested a bench trial in the case, meaning that the presiding judge would act as both the judge and jury. This is vital, as the case could come down to the admissibility of the video footage. As a first-time offender, Kraft, if found guilty, would likely face fines and community service, but would escape having to serve any time in jail.
Kraft could also face punishment from the league offices if found guilty. Soon after the news broke, the NFL released a statement saying that, “We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.”
With Providence College being a hub of both New England and New York sports fans, it is no surprise that many students have something to say about the allegations.
When asked about the situation, loyal New York Jets fan Donnie McAuliffe ’21 said, “It’s a happy day to see scum [like Kraft] put into light.” Fellow Jets fan and Sam Darnold enthusiast Ryan Carius ’21 grudgingly prepared for a verdict of not guilty, he said “Since he is a Patriot, he will find a way out of it.”
On the other end of the spectrum, New England fan Sean Gray ’21 issued a powerful statement that is sure to reverberate with Patriots fans everywhere. “Robert Kraft seriously strayed from the Patriot way,” said Gray. “It’s incredibly disappointing to see, but the justice system will run its course. As an organization, the Patriots should atone for Mr. Kraft’s sins by supporting victims of human trafficking, all while focusing on winning yet another Super Bowl.”
Kraft’s arraignment will be held on March 27, kicking off a legal process that people across campus and the country will keep a close eye on.