Robert Kraft is being charged with soliciting prostitutes. That’s not news, sadly, since a lot of people — including high-profile people — pay for sex.
It’s a misdemeanor under Florida law, the jurisdiction under which he’s being charged, and the maximum sentence he is facing is four months in jail.
So far, not a really big story, even though the 77-year-old billionaire at the middle of it is well known to the football world as Tom Brady’s biggest fan.
The owner of the Super Bowl champion Patriots follows in a long line of lonely, old men who seek solace in the arms of women who, behind their backs, are raising their eyebrows and counting the dollar signs.
But this time, it appears that the women in question were sex slaves, trafficked into the United States with promises of legitimate jobs and forced to service men who either couldn’t, or didn’t want to, earn the affection of their “date.”
As an immigration attorney, I have met some of these women (because they are virtually always young, young women), and I can tell you that the look in their eyes is a cross between terror and emptiness. None of them knowingly entered the world of sex trafficking. For most, it was a promise to leave their small town in the Balkans, or in Asia, or in Africa and earn money and a ticket to a better future. Very few, if any, intended to become what some people call “sex workers,” which is a euphemism that makes me cringe. We can leave for another day the discussion about whether prostitution should be legal, but regardless of how you feel about grown women choosing to use their bodies as a way to make money, there is no question that a pre- or barely post-pubescent youngster trafficked into this country is immoral. It is also a crime.
Immigration has known that for a while, and I know numerous individuals who have obtained what is known in the trade as a “T” visa, which protects the victim of trafficking and gives them a path to legalization. The problem is, as long as there’s a market for this living and breathing commodity, there will continue to be a pipeline of victims.
That’s why what Kraft is alleged to have done is disgusting, immoral, and criminal. It’s unfortunate that the laws make it worthy of only a few months in the cooler.
I’ve actually heard some people supporting Kraft, and their arguments fall along three general lines: (1) He’s a lonely, old man who lost his wife and shouldn’t be the target of moral zealots; (2) he’s being targeted only because he’s a friend of President President Trump and (3) prostitution should be legal. The first and third reasons are connected.
The problem is, all three arguments overlook the fact that our sympathies are misplaced if we’re worrying about the billionaire owner of a championship football franchise, instead of worrying about how to dry up that pipeline of trafficked children and youth. I’d be saying the same thing if Kraft were a 57-year-old carpenter who wanted a little “fun on the side,” or a multimillionaire who spent his holidays with Bill and Hillary.
The point is, the identity of the guy paying for his pleasure is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that all of them represent a market, and if there is the prospect of someone at the end of that pipeline willing to shell out money for a few moments of inauthentic love, the people I see in my immigration practice will continue to be in danger.
Trump talked about the importance of building a wall to stop the flow of trafficking. It’s debatable whether that would work, but, even if it would, it’s better to eliminate the reason for the wall: prosecute the men who represent the demand for that achingly human, achingly vulnerable supply.
Robert Kraft is old, and he has money, and he’ll find a way to avoid the horror of being trapped in a room without any control over his future.
The real victims in this scenario don’t have that luxury.
(Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.)