BOSTON — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he solicited prostitution in Florida.
Police issued a summons Monday for Kraft, 77. He is facing two misdemeanor charges after authorities said he was twice videotaped in a sex act at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft, through his spokesman, has denied the charges.
Update 12:50 p.m. EST Feb. 28: Kraft pleaded not guilty Thursday, according to a court filing obtained by WFXT. In the document, he also requested a non-jury trial.
Original report: Police said Kraft solicited a prostitute at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa just hours before the AFC Championship game in January.
The charges follow a series of raids involving at least eight massage parlors on the east coast of Florida. One of the busted businesses, allegedly run by Lan Yum Ma, is in Vero Beach, an hour north of the spa Kraft allegedly visited.
The Worcester County District Attorney's office told WFXT that Ma is the same woman who pleaded guilty in 2013 to using an Oxford therapeutic massage business as a front for a house of prostitution. Ma was charged in 2013 with solicitation for prostitution and sexual conduct for a fee and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 3 years of probation.
"This is not about lonely old men or victimless crimes,” Florida prosecutor David Aronberg said Monday at a news conference. “This is about enabling a network of criminals to traffic women into our country for forced labor and sex.”
Hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued in recent days as a result of the six-month investigation, and more are expected. Ten spas have been closed, and several people have been taken into custody on sex trafficking charges. Police confirmed Friday that Kraft was involved in the bust.
In a statement released Monday, NFL officials said the league's conduct policy "applies equally to everyone in the NFL," according to NFL.com.
There was no sign of Kraft at his Brookline, Massachusetts, home over the weekend. Entertainment news site TMZ captured video Saturday of Kraft leaving a pre-Oscars party in Beverly Hills, California.
Authorities did not immediately disclose what dates Kraft allegedly visited the spa, but officials said they obtained a warrant to conduct surveillance during a five-day period that began on Jan. 18, a time frame that includes the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl in Atlanta.
Valentin Rodriguez, a Harvard undergrad who is now a criminal defense attorney in West Palm Beach, said last week that if the state's attorney decides to prosecute, Kraft may have to show up to be booked and fingerprinted.
Rodriguez added that because solicitation is a misdemeanor charge, Kraft may never appear in court.
"Our laws allow you to take a plea in absentia for that type of offense, and the local rules don’t require the presence of the actual defendant if it's waived by the attorney," Rodriguez said.
The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.