The owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, has been charged with soliciting prostitution. While we’re more than happy to see a rich white guy actually facing the possibility of jail time, we’re less happy about what it says about the judicial system in Florida.
Kraft, through his lawyers, is pleading Not Guilty to the charge that he visited a “massage parlor” in Jupiter, FL, where he allegedly received both oral and manual stimulation. Something he, again allegedly, did twice in a 24-hour period prior to flying to Kansas City, MO for the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs.
Kraft, who will have a “low level” arrest warrant issued, will not need to appear in court but may appear on video if the case goes to trial. The videos of the alleged meetings haven’t yet been seen by the prosecution, and his defense attorneys are claiming they shouldn’t be admissible because they were made without Mr. Kraft’s consent.
If he’s convicted, Kraft faces up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, and be required to attend a class on the dangers of human trafficking. If the State Attorney decides that there will be no jail time, they can change the type of trial Mr. Kraft (and anyone else) receives.
In Florida, the state can force a non-jury trial (and in theory remove the Public Defender) from a case as long as they agree that the defendant can’t be adjudicated or sent to jail. Otherwise, to get a non-jury trial, which Kraft’s attorneys are requesting, both sides have to agree to a bench trial.
While in some cases, like this one, a defendant might prefer not to have a trial in front of a jury, more often having a jury of ones’ peers is an important part of the judicial process. If the State has the ability to deny this right to a defendant then they are removing one of the things that might mean the defendant’s being found “Not Guilty.”
A jury of your peers is usually more lenient because people are likely to have made mistakes. Leaning on those feelings, a good attorney can usually turn a jury from a “Guilty” to “Not Guilty.”
Whether you want a Jury Trial or a Bench Trial should be up to the person charged with a crime. It shouldn’t be up to the person bringing the charges. Our system should be built on the supposition of innocence, not on whether or not the State Attorney feels like giving you the option, even if you happen to be a really rich white guy who owns a team of “known cheaters.”