Possible Florida registry for johns adds motivation for Patriots owner Robert Kraft to beat prostitution case

·NFL columnist
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft arrives to the NFL football owners meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Key Biscayne, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is battling solicitation of prostitution charges in the Florida courts. (AP)

If Robert Kraft didn’t already have considerable incentive to beat his misdemeanor prostitution case in Florida, state lawmakers could provide additional determination for the New England Patriots owner – in the form of a registry for convicted johns.

Prospective legislation, which is expected to be formally presented to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is a “significant” motivating factor in why Kraft is putting up such a fierce battle against two misdemeanor charges of prostitution, sources close to the Kraft case told Yahoo Sports this week.

Not only would Kraft have to deal with NFL sanctions in the face of a conviction, the passage of new legislation could put him on a public registry of johns in the state for at least five years. Both houses of the Florida legislature passed a bill in early May that contains language to create a registry for pimps and johns who are found guilty in their cases.

“I think Mr. Kraft and his representation are well aware of that prospective legislation and how it might apply to him if he were to face a conviction,” a source familiar with the case said. A john registry “would be pretty embarrassing for anyone, I would think. Whether that [registry] comes to be is for the governor to decide.”

How a pimps and johns registry would work

Similar to a sex-offender registry, a “pimps and johns registry” would include names, addresses and photos of those convicted. Unlike the sex-offender registry, it would not be readily available online. Instead, it would be a public document available upon request. Offenders would also be eligible to come off the registry after five years if they are not convicted of additional prostitution-related crimes in the ensuing five years of their previous conviction.

The registry is part of a larger bill designed to undermine sex trafficking in Florida, with the registry being an addition intending to publicly shame the demand end of prostitution through added consequences for johns. Interestingly, portions of the bill aimed at massage parlors and a “pimps and johns registry” were added after Kraft was among those charged in a sweeping prostitution sting in February. Two high-profile sporting events are coming to Florida in 2020 (a Miami Super Bowl and Tampa WrestleMania) amping up a push for additional prostitution and sex-trafficking laws. This latest bill is expected to be formally sent to Gov. DeSantis for his approval in the coming months.

Kraft’s case in limbo

Whether such legislation would be applicable to Kraft depends largely on what happens in his prostitution case, which has featured a few serious legal setbacks for prosecutors. A judge has already thrown out key video evidence in the case against Kraft, including footage from inside the Orchids of Asia Day Spa that could essentially nullify the state’s case against the Patriots owner if it remains inadmissible.

The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office was granted a pause in Kraft’s case until it could appeal the decision to strike down the video evidence. That stay in proceedings could drag the entire case into 2020 before appeals on the evidence are exhausted. And if the video evidence is ultimately ruled out of the case, it appears the state may have to drop its case against Kraft altogether.

Such an outcome would render any existing registry irrelevant to Kraft, who would then only have to deal with the NFL’s personal conduct policy and how it related to his case. A date for the state’s appeal of the video dismissal has not yet been set.

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