Robert Kraft Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Soliciting Prostitution
By CBS News
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Billionaire New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has entered a plea of not guilty on charges of soliciting prostitution while visiting a Florida massage parlor in January. According to court records obtained by CBS News from the County Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Kraft formally pleaded not guilty to the two counts and asked that a judge decide the case.
"The Defendant, ROBERT KRAFT, hereby pleads not guilty to all charges and requests a non-jury trial in the above styled cause," the document states.
Kraft was charged last week with two counts of soliciting prostitution. Police allege they have surveillance video of Kraft engaging in sex acts during two visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, on Jan. 19 and 20. He faces up to one year in jail if he's convicted.
"We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesperson for Kraft said in a statement last week. "Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."
Kraft was one of 25 men charged as a result of the investigation, along with a number of people accused of running the illicit operations. State Attorney Dave Aronberg spoke at a news conference Monday about the crackdown on human trafficking.
"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.
According to Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orzco, author of Hidden in Plain Sight: America's Slaves of the New Millennium, massage parlors are viewed as high-risk places for containing women who may be victims of sex trafficking.
"A lot of women being brought in (to massage parlors) don't speak the language, are being deceived on the cost on their travel to the United States," Melhman-Orozco said in an interview on CBSN. "They're put into a perpetual debt-bondage situation."
Under Kraft's ownership, the New England Patriots have been the most successful team in the NFL over the past two decades. In January, the Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, their sixth NFL championship since Kraft bought the team in 1994. CBS Boston reports the NFL is investigating the allegations against Kraft as well.
"Our Personal Conduct Policy applies equally to everyone in the NFL," the NFL's statement said. "We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the Policy. We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts."
(This story was originally published on CBS News on Feb. 28 at 3:04 p.m. ET)