Authorities: Kraft visited parlor for sex on day of AFC game
By TERRY SPENCER
Tuesday, February 26
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft visited a Florida massage parlor for sex acts the night before and the morning of last month’s AFC championship game, authorities said Monday in documents charging him with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution.
Kraft is one of hundreds of men charged in recent days as part of a crackdown on prostitution allegedly occurring in massage parlors between Palm Beach and Orlando. Ten spas have been closed and several people, most of them women originally from China, have been charged with running the operation.
The 77-year-old Kraft was chauffeured to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in a 2014 white Bentley on the evening of Jan. 19, where police say they videotaped him engaging in a sex act and then handing over an undetermined amount of cash, Jupiter, Florida, police said in charging documents released by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office.
Investigators said Kraft returned 17 hours later, arriving at the upper-middle class shopping center where the spa was located in a chauffeured 2015 blue Bentley, the documents said. Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was videotaped engaging in sex acts before paying with a $100 bill and another bill, police said. He then flew to Kansas City to watch his Patriots defeat the Chiefs in overtime hours later.
Kraft, whose team won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta, denied wrongdoing Friday, shortly after Jupiter police announced he was being charged. The NFL said Monday in a statement that its personal conduct policy “applies equally to everyone in the NFL” and it will handle “this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy.” Kraft’s wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, died in 2011. He has been dating 39-year-old actress Ricki Noel Lander since 2012.
Another high-profile businessman, former Citigroup President John Havens, 62, is also charged with paying for sex at the Orchids of Asia spa. He too has denied wrongdoing. He was Citigroup president in 2011 and 2012. He now runs a hedge fund that was spun off from Citigroup. Twenty-three other men are also charged in Palm Beach County, with others charged in a string of counties spanning more than 150 miles (240 kilometers).
Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg said Kraft will be issued a summons that is similar to a traffic ticket and assigned a day to appear in court. Most people charged for the first time with soliciting are eligible for a diversion program where they pay a fine, perform 100 hours of community service and attend a class where they learn about the dangers of prostitution and how it is often tied to human trafficking. Fines can be up to $5,000.
Authorities investigated the parlors for months, gathering evidence through observation, interviews with men stopped leaving the spas, trash bin searches and surveillance of their owners. Judges then issued warrants allowing them to secretly install cameras inside the spas to record what transpired.
Aronberg steered a Monday news conference away from Kraft’s case to the larger issue of human trafficking. No human trafficking charges have been filed against Kraft, Haven or any of the other alleged customers, but at least one alleged operator is charged in Indian River County with trafficking.
At least some alleged operators and workers were born in China and Chinese translators are being used to interview women connected with the businesses, according to court documents. The documents said many of the workers were forced to live at the spas and were not allowed to leave without an escort.
“The larger picture, which we must all confront, is the cold reality that many prostitutes in cases like this are themselves victims, often lured to this country with promises of a better life, only to be forced to live and work in a sweat shop or a brothel performing sex acts for strangers,” Aronberg said.
He called such prostitution “modern-day slavery” fueled by customers “who aren’t aware or don’t want to be aware of those being exploited.”
Kathy Chen, a researcher with the anti-human trafficking group Praesidium Partners, has helped Asian women rescued from sex rings. She said it’s often difficult to persuade them to testify against their captors, fearing for themselves and for their families back home.
Chen said Chinese sex rings often prey on young women from lower economic classes. One told its workers that “in six months we guarantee you enough to buy a car and after three years you can buy this store and in five years you can buy a home … and you can bring your family over and you will have everything.”
Aronberg pointed out that Florida has severe punishments for human trafficking and allows the workers to be treated as victims if they cooperate. He also said the federal government offers visas to victims who are foreign nationals if they cooperate, allowing them to remain in the country indefinitely. Authorities have not said how many women worked at the parlors or where they are being housed since the spas’ closures.
Aronberg said he was not shocked that Kraft and other wealthy men would be charged with soliciting sex in a massage parlor.
“Defendants in these matters come from every socio-economic group. It is just the reality of the times we live in,” he said.
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AP writers Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale and Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this report.
State officials troubled by allegations against Robert Kraft
By BOB SALSBERG
BOSTON (AP) — Attorney General Maura Healey renewed her call on Tuesday for passage of legislation that would license and regulate massage therapists and bodyworks in Massachusetts, in the aftermath of allegations that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft paid for sex at a massage parlor in Florida.
Healey, a Democrat, said she found the charges against Kraft to be “deeply troubling and disturbing,” and expressed confidence that authorities would “do their job” in prosecuting the case.
Kraft is among hundreds of men accused as part of a crackdown on prostitution allegedly occurring in massage parlors in Florida. He faces two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution and has denied wrongdoing.
Police said Kraft was videotaped in Jupiter, Florida, engaging in a sex act on Jan. 19 , then returned to the establishment the following day before flying to the AFC championship game in Kansas City.
Healey, who says her office has prosecuted dozens of sex trafficking cases, is among sponsors of a bill that would mandate rules and regulations for Massachusetts businesses that offer massage and bodyworks and establish a code of ethics for the profession. The measure, filed prior to the Florida case involving Kraft, would create a seven-member licensure board, including one member from law enforcement with a background in human trafficking investigations.
“This is not a victimless crime,” Healey said of prostitution during her monthly “Ask the AG” program Tuesday on WGBH-FM. “At the other end there is always someone’s mother, daughter, sister, and they don’t want to be there.”
In one recent case prosecuted by the state, Healey’s office won human trafficking and money laundering convictions against a Medford woman accused of using massage parlors as fronts for human trafficking, and of bringing women to the state to engage in prostitution. Xiu Chen, 38, was sentenced in December to five years in prison.
The attorney general and Kraft have worked together in the past on issues related to sexual violence.
In 2015, Healey and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation partnered to launch Game Change, an educational program focused on encouraging healthy relationships among adolescents and preventing dating violence and sexual assault. She and Kraft hosted an annual student leadership event for the program at Gillette Stadium last October.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday said he was shocked and disappointed to hear of the allegations against Kraft, while adding that cracking down on sexual exploitation and trafficking has been a high priority for his administration.
Baker, who attended the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory in Atlanta last month, declined to offer an opinion when asked if he thought Kraft should step aside from direct control of the team.
“I think that’s an issue for the Patriots and the NFL,” he said.
Upon further review, NFL’s replay system could remain intact
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 27
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — John Mara hears the cries to change the NFL’s replay system. He doesn’t think it has the votes.
After the New York Giants owner emerged from the competition committee’s annual meeting in Indianapolis, Mara told a handful of reporters he doesn’t anticipate significant changes coming to the system, which returned to the league in 1999.
“I just don’t sense a lot of support to use replay to call penalties. I don’t sense a lot of support for the expansion of it, either,” Mara said Tuesday. “We’re early on, so that might change, but that’s my sense of where we are right now. I’m not saying it won’t change.”
Any rule change requires a 24-vote threshold to pass. Right now, committee members continue to listen to those involved. On Tuesday, it was the game officials. Later this week, it will be the coaches and general managers. At Phoenix, in March, the owners will weigh in — and they are the ones with the power to alter the rules.
But no formal proposal or recommendation is on the table.
Fans and many media members have vociferously expressed displeasure with the system since a blown call late in the NFC championship game — officials missed a blatant pass interference penalty and a helmet-first hit by the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman deep in Los Angeles territory. The non-calls helped Los Angeles force overtime and eventually win the game to reach the Super Bowl.
Mara knows all about that, too. And he also recognizes what repercussions can result from major alterations.
“Are you going to look for one area or check the entire offensive line?” Mara said. “I think you get into a lot of areas with a lot of unintended consequences, and I just don’t think there is a lot of sentiment for going in that direction at this point.
“We had a group of officials in there and I don’t think there was a lot of support from them about sending it upstairs or sending it to New York.”
Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee, noted that supporters of expanding replay could seize on the tide of complaints about the NFC title game. He stressed that the committee will continue to have “healthy discussions” on the subject.
McKay also said the committee is looking into the on-field celebrations that included players — or even non-players — coming from the sideline.
“So there is some concern about that and it’s something I am sure we will put into the book as a reminder,” he said of limiting the number of participants in those celebrations.
Feedback on the stricter rules against use of the helmet for hits on opponents has been positive, McKay said.
“We certainly like the numbers that showed up, from an injury standpoint,” he said of concussions and helmet-to-helmet hits declining. “It appears the players (learned) and coaches did a good job of teaching, but there is a period of adjustment; these players didn’t play with this rule for a long, long time — meaning their entire careers.
“We know there is an adjustment period for on-field officials and we went through that a lot as a committee and looked at a lot of plays. They remain confident that, just like with the defensive player (rule), they will get better at it as they look for it more, and I think we are confident we will see less of these potential fouls because the players will get comfortable with it.”
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AP Interview: Chelsea tackles anti-Semitism, ‘stupid fans’
By ROB HARRIS
AP Global Soccer Writer
Tuesday, February 26
LONDON (AP) — Gathered with his Chelsea directors, Roman Abramovich stopped the football talk to raise deep concerns.
This was in November 2017, and Abramovich was alarmed by a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, particularly in Britain — and even in his own stadium. Rather than just focusing on trophies, the Premier League club’s Jewish owner believed Chelsea could be a force for social change, to transform the minority of fans hurling abuse at Stamford Bridge.
“We’re just sitting, talking … and he brought up what he had noticed and what he was concerned about,” Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck recalled in an interview with The Associated Press, “and of course everyone said he’s someone that can do something about it.”
For more than a year, Chelsea has been working with Jewish organizations to harness the power and influence of the world’s biggest sport to promote a more inclusive environment at games and, more broadly, educate new generations about the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
A group from the club, including academy players, has visited the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. A Holocaust survivor, Harry Spiro, addressed the first team squad about the horrors of the Buchenwald and Theresienstadt camps.
“I thought they’d be on their iPhones,” Buck recalled. “He told his story for about 45 minutes and every single player and every single coach sat there mesmerized.”
Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day last month, players, including Eden Hazard, were featured in a video urging the world, “We Remember.”
“They’re role models,” Buck said, “so we hope some of these stupid fans, and there are a few out there, realize that these are my role models.”
It’s a work in progress that has layers of complexity.
UEFA disciplinary officials are yet to decide how to punish Chelsea for anti-Semitic chants made by fans during a Europa League game in Hungary in December against Vidi. Chelsea could be forced to play a game behind closed doors without any fans.
The Chelsea fans were chanting “Yid,” a derogatory term for Jewish people. What muddies complaints is the fact that fans of crosstown rival Tottenham, which has traditionally drawn a large fan base from the Jewish communities in London, call themselves the “Yid Army.” For decades the Y-word has been deployed as a call to arms by Tottenham followers.
But when Chelsea fans have hurled the Y-word — particularly during games against Tottenham — there has also been hissing, mimicking Nazi gas chambers. With Chelsea hosting its London rival on Wednesday night in the Premier League, fresh warnings have been issued for fans to cut out the antisemitism that has tarnished past derbies.
“There is a particular problem with the Y-word,” Buck said. “We think the use of the Y-word by Spurs supporters, or by anybody, is wrong. It’s very confusing … because UEFA thinks it’s wrong and are charging our fans. … We’re trying to say there shouldn’t be a ban.”
In 2014, London’s Metropolitan Police backed away from a threat to arrest Tottenham fans for using the Y-word. But Chelsea fans could be detained.
“There’s a particular problem for the police in that if you’ve got the 3,000 Spurs fans chanting it how do you drag 3,000 people out of the stadium? I respect that,” Buck said. “They can say they’re just not going to arrest and prosecute because it’s too difficult or whatever, but they shouldn’t be saying it’s OK to say that.”
The paradox of Chelsea needing to lead a campaign against antisemitism — with a significant focus on its own fans — is that its Jewish owner transformed the club since his 2003 purchase. Under Abramovich, Chelsea ended a 50-year English championship drought in 2005 and has in total won five Premier League titles, the 2012 Champions League, the 2013 Europa League, five FA Cups and three League Cups.
Abramovich’s British visa expired last April as part of a dispute between Britain and Russia that followed the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury. Chelsea has maintained the campaign against anti-Semitism in his absence.
“That’s not going to stop him from having Chelsea do what’s right and what’s working and what’s helpful for the world,” Buck said. “We have a bit more money to spend thanks to the benevolence of Mr. Abramovich and this is one of the many things we are doing.”
Abramovich’s inability to attend Chelsea home matches had sparked speculation about his continued ownership.
“All I know is that he loves football and he loves Chelsea Football Club,” Buck said, “and he’s trying to do good things with the club that he owns.”
That is appreciated by the World Jewish Congress, particularly while rallying the support of national leaders.
“When you tell them about the project that we are doing here,” WJC chief executive Robert Singer said alongside Buck during an interview in London, “Chelsea suddenly it becomes core of the discussion.”
Chelsea is a visible part of a capital where anti-Semitism is resurgent. The Community Security Trust cataloged a 16 percent rise in incidents last year to 1,652. Just last week, eight House of Commons members quit the main opposition Labour Party, citing among their reasons leader Jeremy Corbyn for failing to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party.
“What’s happening worldwide, but also here in Europe, is unexplainable, unbelievable and dramatic and needs attention from governments,” Singer said, “and from people like the leadership of Chelsea.”
Chelsea uses its platform online and in stadiums on match days to campaign against racism and urge fans to report abuse. Buck hopes up to $4 million will be raised for the campaign, and that awareness will be boosted by Chelsea playing a game later this year in suburban Boston against Robert Kraft’s New England Revolution.
“We at Chelsea have had several incidents over the last year and we’re trying to deal with those in the appropriate way,” Buck said. “Historically football clubs if fans did something wrong or we just threw them out or banned them. … Education is the only way that we’re going to make a real dent.”
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Nebraska officials subpoena hundreds of Catholic churches
By MARGERY A. BECK
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska officials have subpoenaed more than 400 Roman Catholic churches and institutions in the state seeking any records related to child sexual assault or abuse.
The move was announced Tuesday by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, which had last summer asked Nebraska’s three Catholic diocese to voluntarily turn over records of child sex abuse dating back decades.
“The Nebraska Department of Justice has appreciated the voluntary cooperation demonstrated by the churches,” the release says. “However, the department believes that subpoenas are necessary in order to ensure all reports of impropriety have been submitted to the appropriate authorities.”
The subpoenas seek all records or information related to any child sexual abuse that has occurred by those employed or associated with each church or institution, whether previously reported or not.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general declined to comment beyond the news release issued Tuesday on the subpoenas. Phone messages left Tuesday for representatives of all three of Nebraska’s Catholic dioceses were not immediately returned.
In November, the Archdiocese of Omaha released a list 38 priests and other clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct after the state’s top prosecutor requested the information. The archdiocese said 24 of the priests on that list were under its control when the allegations surfaced, but that all of those men had since died or been removed from the clergy. At least two men on the list where convicted and served prison sentences for molesting children.
The latest subpoenas in Nebraska come in the wake of other similar examinations elsewhere. A grand jury report last year in Pennsylvania found hundreds of abusive priests in that state. Catholic dioceses in more than two dozen states have named suspected abusers since that landmark report, and several states have announced they’re taking a closer look at such allegations.