From Kraft and Brady (but not that Brady), an apology — and vigorous legal defense
NFL owner, Brockton pol take similar mixed-message approach
KRAFT AND BRADY. The two names will be forever linked in local lore for their roles in a football dynasty to rival all others.
But the names are also now linked in ways more scandalous than celebrated.
The Kraft in both cases is the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, who is also now the big-name defendant in the tawdry tale of a prostitution operation allegedly run out of a massage parlor in a Florida strip mall. The Brady who also finds himself the subject of unflattering headlines, however, is not the star quarterback of Bob Kraft’s NFL team, but a Brockton state senator.
Michael Brady is due to go on trial Tuesday morning on drunken driving charges, and the Brockton pol’s connection to Kraft isn’t based only on the coincidence of his gridiron-gilded last name. The Democratic lawmaker and NFL owner seem to be using the same public relations and legal defense playbook.
Kraft and Brady both offered expressions of regret — Brady in March 2018 after being nabbed by Weymouth police who observed him swerving down Main Street, and Kraft after he was charged in February with two counts of soliciting a prostitute at a Jupiter, Florida, spa.
But don’t equate apologies with guilty pleas: Both men are now vigorously defending themselves against charges in court.
“I am truly sorry,” Kraft said in a statement released in March. “I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”
But Kraft has never said just what he is sorry for, or how he might not have met some higher standard in which he’s held.
Instead, he has hired a team of high-priced lawyers to fight the charges he faces. Kraft has denied engaging in any illegal activity, and he scored a huge victory last month when a judge ruled that prosecutors may not use surveillance video they collected at the spa, a decision that legal experts say may have delivered a fatal blow to their case against him. (Prosecutors are appealing the ruling.)
Following his March 2018 arrest, Brady released a statement very similar to Kraft’s.
“I want to apologize to the Weymouth Police, my constituents, my friends and colleagues in the Legislature for any embarrassment and distraction that this incident causes. I know that as a Senator, I am held to a higher standard, and I will abide by the advice of my counsel as this matter is adjudicated by our judiciary,” Brady said in a statement to the State House News Service.
The dual challenges of mounting a public relations effort and pursuing a legal strategy present a tricky situation, said Greg Henning, a principal at West Hill Associates, a Boston law firm specializing in legal counsel, crisis management, and communications strategy.
“Anybody who’s in the public eye, whether an elected official or a well-known franchise owner, has to answer to a different set of interests than a typical civilian,” said Henning, a former Suffolk County prosecutor who waged an unsuccessful campaign last year for district attorney. “The need to address publicly a person’s alleged conduct means for those people that are in the public eye they face significant obstacles that the average person wouldn’t.”
For both Kraft and Brady, the actual legal sanctions they face seem far less concerning than the potential repercussions of a courtroom conviction.
The first-offense misdemeanor solicitation charges against Kraft almost never result in a jail sentence. But Kraft is still subject to potential sanctions by the NFL, including fines and suspensions from attending games. The league commissioner, Roger Goodell, could impose a penalty regardless of a court finding, but a conviction would seem to bode less well for Kraft.
Similarly, the first-offense charges Brady faces are generally handled with a minor sanction. “Defense attorneys are aware that the normal disposition for OUI 1 in Norfolk County is ‘continued without a finding,’” said David Traub, spokesman for the Norfolk district attorney’s office. That outcome does not result in a criminal record, although the defendant is subject to penalties, including fines and driver’s license suspension.
In Brady’s case, however, looming potentially larger than any court penalties is the discipline he could also face discipline from his Senate colleagues. Those sanctions could range from some type of reprimand to expulsion. As with Kraft, a conviction would seem to provide grounds for a harsher penalty.While both Kraft and Brady may be motivated by factors beyond any potential legal penalty to fight the charges they’re facing, the mixed messages they are sending will leave plenty of room for the public to question their conduct, regardless of the verdict delivered in court.
“It’s important to make sure the communications strategy and legal strategy are consistent or at least not inconsistent,” said Henning, “so that the public doesn’t have this head-scratching reaction.”