Another year, another stressful off season in New England.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is charged with soliciting prostitution at a spa in Jupiter, Florida. There are tapes that appear to show Kraft receiving oral and manual sex and paying for it afterwards. If this were it, it would likely not be a big deal. Kraft would undoubtedly receive a slap on the wrist from the courts and would likely only be fined $500,000 by Goodell (a drop in the bucket for the man worth over $6 billion). However, all of this is complicated by the fact that many of the women at that spa were victims of sex trafficking. Recent reports indicate that the women who were videotaped with Kraft were not themselves victims of sex trafficking, but regardless the entire situation is vastly more complicated. It is also worth noting that Kraft is pleading not guilty, which means many outcomes are in play. So lets explore the 4 most likely outcomes.
1. No major legal consequences, 6 game suspension from NFL
People rarely face prison time for soliciting prostitution. With Kraft’s undoubtedly expensive and powerful legal team, it would be very unlikely for him to face any time behind bars. However, I find it more likely than not that he will be found guilty in the courts. Video tape evidence is pretty damning. He is making the case that there were issues in the investigation to get off, and until more details about the investigation are released to the public, it’s impossible to know whether this is going to be a viable strategy. So with the current information, it seems as if he’ll probably get a fine and community service from the courts. However, the NFL is a different story. Owners are held to even higher standards than players when it comes to personal conduct, so a suspension from Goodell is highly probable. The closest parallel to this situation is when Irsay had his drug problem and was suspended 6 games, so this is what I predict Kraft will be sentenced to as well. This will have relatively little effect on the Patriots, as Jonathan Kraft will take over (who has been studying under Robert for years) and the owner has little effect on the on-field performance.
2. Found not guilty in courts, 6 game NFL suspension
Same logic applies with the suspension. The NFL doesn’t care what the courts rule more often than not and tend to be far more lenient in doling out punishments (unless, of course, it’s domestic abuse, but I digress). If Kraft’s lawyers have advised him to plead not guilty, I’m sure they know what they’re doing. The logical thing to do in the case of obvious guilt would have been to instantly admit to the solicitation while denying any knowledge of the trafficking. So he must believe that his innocence (or at least a violation of his rights through the investigation). If this ends up being the case, I would almost be willing to assure another Patriots Super Bowl. This team thrives on controversy, and I can’t think of a much better way to ignite both the team and fan base to have the court declare Kraft’s innocence only to have Goodell dole out a large suspension.
3. Minor prison sentence, pushed to give up ownership
Had Kraft plead guilty, he would surely not receive any prison time. However, by trying to fight, he risks a prison sentence if the courts find him guilty. While I believe this is unlikely, it is very possible if some new evidence trickles up (such as Kraft visiting the spa more times than already known). To have an owner that served prison time would be a bad look for the league. Kraft would likely be pushed by Goodell and the other owners to hand over the reigns to his son Jonathan so that the league can move past this. This could potentially have long-term negative impact for the Pats, as Kraft is a beloved owner (or at least he was before this scandal) and there is no guarantee that Jonathan will run things as well as Robert did long-term.
4. Kraft is found to have known about (or even was involved in) the sex trafficking, long prison sentence, forced to sell team
This would be a devastating for all parties involved. By pleading not guilty, Kraft opens the door for a longer investigation and leaves plenty of time for new information to surface. If Kraft is somehow found to have any knowledge or part in the trafficking that these women underwent, the NFL would be wise to distance themselves from him as quickly as possible. The owners would surely vote to force Kraft to sell the team outside of the Kraft family. Meanwhile, Kraft would go from looking at a one year max prison sentence to a massive sentence (long enough that he would more likely than not die in prison). This possibility to me is far less likely than the other three. I would have a hard time believing that Kraft is a horrible human being who would participate in the solicitation knowing trafficking was occurring, much less actively participate in the trafficking.
The good news for the Pats, Goodell has no right to take any draft picks from the team. Kraft’s actions did nothing to give the Pats a competitive advantage, so draft picks will be kept in tact. Even in the worst case scenario, no major on-field changes would occur in New England. Kraft will likely be punished by the NFL, but is unlikely to receive jail time and more probably than not everything is back to normal going into Week 7 next season.