By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) – Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, pleaded not guilty to charges of soliciting prostitution in Florida, where police said he was captured on video engaging in sex acts with a worker at a massage parlour, according to court records.
The court documents, which were filed on Tuesday in the 15th Judicial Circuit Court in Palm Beach County, Florida, showed that Kraft’s lawyers also requested a non-jury trial.
The 77-year-old billionaire businessman, whose Super Bowl-winning Patriots have become the National Football League’s most dominant franchise, was swept up in a police sting last week that targeted sex-trafficking in day spas and massage parlours in several Florida counties. The operation has led to hundreds being charged.
“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further,” Aaron Salkin, a spokesman for Kraft and the Patriots, said in a statement.
Kraft was charged on Feb. 22 with two misdemeanours after police accused him of visiting Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, on two separate occasions to solicit sex. Kraft lives in Massachusetts but owns property in Palm Beach, Florida.
Authorities acquired video evidence depicting the acts in question after installing hidden cameras inside of the spa, police officials said.
Kraft could face discipline under the league’s personal conduct policy, which applies to team owners and prohibits “conduct detrimental to the integrity” of the NFL.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)