Maddie Meyer/Getty Images(BOSTON) — Robert Kraft, the owner of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, said in a statement on Saturday that he is “truly sorry” for getting caught up in an investigation into sex trafficking arising from his visits to a Florida spa, where authorities charge he twice solicited sexual favors for money earlier this year.
“I am truly sorry,” Kraft wrote in the statement. “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.”
Kraft also described his “extraordinary respect for women” and cited the spirit of his late wife, Myra Kraft, who died in 2011 of ovarian cancer after 48 years of marriage.
“Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing. The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years.”
“As I move forward, I hope to continue to use the platform with which I have been blessed to help others and to try to make a difference. I expect to be judged not by my words, but by my actions. And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect.”
Kraft has been charged by Palm Beach prosecutors with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution for allegedly visiting the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida on two occasions earlier this year and paying for sexual favors from the massage parlor’s staff. Two dozen other men caught up in the probe were similarly charged.
Authorities set up hidden cameras at the spa as part of a larger investigation into sex trafficking and, according to Jupiter police detectives, obtained video evidence of all of the suspects participating in the alleged sexual acts.
Kraft chose to reject a deferred prosecution agreement offered this week to all of the men charged, which would not have required him to plead guilty to any charges, a source close to Kraft told ABC News on Wednesday.
Kraft’s attorneys have been engaged in negotiations with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office for much of this week, sources told ABC News, though it does not appear that any deal has been reached to date.
Defense attorneys for the National Football League (NFL) team owner reportedly believe that a search warrant that allowed investigators to install hidden cameras inside the spa’s massage rooms was improperly obtained, and note among other things that an investigation premised on probing alleged human trafficking at the Orchids spa has yet to lead to any trafficking charges.
“We have looked into it, we’ve looked at the charges brought, looked at the evidence, and there is zero evidence of human trafficking,” defense attorney William Burck told the New York Times.
The billionaire team owner has reportedly been deeply distressed by the charges and the subsequent publicity.
Several unidentified friends of Kraft told the New York Times this weekend that even a month after being charged, he still “breaks down in tears when discussing the situation.”
Since his name first surfaced last month in connection with the lengthy investigation into sex trafficking at Florida massage parlors, the veteran Patriots owner is facing a trio of threats — drawing scrutiny from the courts, the NFL and the public at large.
If he is cleared of the criminal charges, he could still face censure from the NFL, and if he survives that, he still faces the possibility of potentially embarrassing video of himself at the massage parlor being leaked, or even publicly released under some potential outcomes.
The investigation involved dozens of law enforcement officials from numerous agencies as well their counterparts in criminal courts system. Access to such evidence is naturally more vulnerable to misuse the more hands it passes through, defense attorneys and law enforcement officials told ABC News this week.
Kraft’s made his statement the day before the NFL team owners’ annual gathering on Sunday in Phoenix — a collection of peers whose judgment on Kraft’s misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution charges could prove equally if not more impactful than any criminal court.
NFL Commissioner Roger Godell has punished Kraft’s Patriots more severely than any other franchise during his tenure, according to ESPN. He fined them $250,000, and coach Bill Belichick $500,000, for spying on an opponent’s defensive signals in 2007. He fined the Patriots $1 million, stripped them of two draft choices and suspended quarterback Tom Brady as part of the 2015 “Deflategate” investigation.
Even without pleading guilty, league policy states that Kraft could still subject to league penalties, according to ESPN.
“It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”
Earlier this week, a coalition of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking survivor networks wrote a letter calling on Goodell to investigate criminal charges against Kraft and if found to be true to strip him of ownership of the Super Bowl champions franchise, according to a letter released by the coalition on Tuesday.
The proposed pre-trial diversion offer would have required Kraft to either acknowledge guilt or admit that he would have been proven guilty at trial, according to the spokesperson for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, Mike Edmondson.
The Patriots team owner has pleaded not guilty and opted for a non-jury trial before a judge, while assembling a powerhouse team of high-profile Florida criminal defense attorneys.
While Kraft is currently facing a statutory maximum of one year in jail, if he were to have accepted the plea agreement, the misdemeanor charges would have been dropped.
As part of the statute, Kraft would have had to perform 100 hours of community service, attend a class on the dangers of prostitution and pay a $5,000 fine per count, according to Edmondson.
The deal was offered to Kraft and 24 other men charged in the case, though it remained unclear by Saturday if any of the men had accepted the deal.
Depending on the outcome of the case, a key law enforcement figure in the investigation said he believes the alleged video evidence could eventually be publicized.
Earlier this week, lawyers for Kraft and 14 of the 24 other men charged in the investigation filed a joint motion seeking a protective order to keep evidence in the case from being released – including hidden camera video of the men in the massage parlor rooms.
But prosecutors “declined to agree to the protective order,” Kraft attorney William Burck told the New York Post.
“We’ve been surprised and disappointed that the state attorney did not sign on to the protective order, because it is a standard procedure in a criminal case.”
The Florida sheriff whose department is overseeing the multi-county investigation told CNBC this week that he expects the video evidence could eventually be released publicly.
“I do think ultimately they are probably going to get released,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said on Thursday, one day after Kraft’s attorneys filed the motion for the protective order over the evidence.
“Once a case is over, it’s not an ongoing investigation,” Snyder said. “There has to be a specific reason not to release a public record. And the fact that there is sexual activity is not an exemption.”
With the case ongoing, the video will remain under seal, Snyder told the financial news channel.
“The question is if they plead guilty and the case goes away, will it be subject to public record?” Snyder said. “I think the answer is yes.”
The allegations against Kraft came three weeks after the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams to win the team’s sixth Super Bowl title.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Kraft’s then-NFL record $172 million purchase of the Patriots in 1994.
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