New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft is finding out the downside of being a celebrity owner in the NFL.
As a legal matter, being charged with solicitation after visiting a Florida massage parlor two days in a row in January – including the morning of the AFC title game being played halfway across the country – is not a big deal.
According to the Wall Street Journal, prosecutors even offered him a deal in which they will drop the charges on the condition that he admit that if the charges hadn’t been dropped, prosecution would have resulted in a conviction.
All he would have to do then is 100 hours of community service, complete an education course about prostitution, be screened for STDs and pay some of the court costs and it would all be over.
It’s likely the low-profile men also charged would take that deal.
But he’s Bob Kraft — one of the most visible owners in the NFL.
Does he want to make any concession that he would be found guilty if he were prosecuted?
What would commissioner Roger Goodell do if he takes that deal? Would that violate the league’s personal conduct policy? Goodell would be under pressure from the other owners to take action.
This is just the latest twist in a case that has become much bigger than the actual misdemeanor charge.
Not surprisingly, Kraft has hired high-profile attorneys to defend him.
For example, he hired Washington lawyer William Burck, who is no stranger to the spotlight.
In a New York Times profile last September, Burck was described as “the latest incarnation of the Washington superlawyer — a legal gun for hire like (the late) Edward Bennett Williams, the powerhouse of the 1970s and 1980s.”
Burck has represented various former members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, and he is good friends with controversial Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and oversaw the process of withholding more than 100,000 pages of legal documents during Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle.
Burck was called out by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who said that Burck and Kavanaugh are “partisan warriors who have consistently been at the center of hard-right battles.”
He was also described as a Patriots fan who flies to most Patriots games and spent many evening with friends delivering a point-by-point evisceration of the “Deflategate” case against Tom Brady.
Kraft’s hiring of Burck and Jack Goldberger, the Florida lawyer who was one of the lawyers who defended Jeffrey E. Epstein, a wealthy New York financier accused of trafficking underage girls for sex, shows Kraft should be getting the best legal advice money could buy.
But would his lawyers advise him to take the plea deal?
His lawyers could probably make a case if they decide to fight the chargers.
Kraft’s lawyers could argue that since the video has no audio so there may not be clear evidence of Kraft asking to pay for sex.
His lawyers will likely fight to keep that video from going public, too.
Kraft’s lawyers also could argue that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when police stopped his car and demanded he provide identification even though he was a passenger.
Stopping cars of men who left the massage parlor was standard operating procedure by the police to identify the clients.
On the other hand, the fact that Kraft went to the massage parlor two days in a row on Jan. 19 and 20 might make it difficult to argue he wasn’t paying for sex.
There’s also the chance of Kraft winning in court and losing in the court of public opinion.
If the case drags on and gets more headlines, it is not good for Kraft or the NFL.
The story won’t go away. It didn’t help Kraft that the Chinese woman who founded the parlor but no longer owns it has been photographed with Trump and other top Republicans at Trump’s Florida estate. And there are suggestions she was selling access to Trump.
All this has nothing to do with Kraft, but he keeps getting mentioned in the stories.
And the late-night comics like making jokes about it, and his name pops up in unlike places.
A New York Times columnist wrote a column on billionaires being cheap with examples like Warren Buffett never paying more than $3.17 for breakfast.
And then she brought up Kraft, saying he could have hired “discreet professional escorts” instead of going to a strip mall massage parlor. She noted he could have afforded to buy the entire strip mall.
Meanwhile, the annual March NFL owners meeting is scheduled March 24-27 in Phoenix.
Will Kraft attend? Will he take the plea deal? So many questions, so few answers.
The only thing we do know is that his high-priced lawyers can’t get the story to go away.