SportsPulse: Trysta Krick explains why we should be thanking Robert Kraft following his alleged involvement in the solicitation of prostitution.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution, according to court records.
“The Defendant, Robert Kraft, hereby pleads not guilty to all charges and requests a non-jury trial,” Jack A. Goldberger, Kraft’s attorney, wrote in a filing — reviewed by USA TODAY Sports — to Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit Court.
Kraft was originally scheduled to be arraigned on April 24, although the hearing was moved to March 27. By entering a plea before the arraignment, Kraft avoids having to attend the arraignment in person.
The charges against Kraft, 77, were linked to two alleged visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, last month. The spa was under surveillance as part of multi-jurisdiction prostitution ring investigation. The second visit on Jan. 20 came hours before the Patriots played in the AFC title game in Kansas City.
The Patriots issued the following statement last week: “We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
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Kraft faces a 10-day minimum sentence and a maximum of up to two years in jail if convicted on both charges, although it’s expected he would be offered a pre-trial diversion program by prosecutors. Prosecutors could agree to drop one of the charges as part of a plea deal, which would allow Kraft to avoid any jail time.
Kraft’s decision to seek a bench trial – where a judge rules on guilt or innocence instead of a jury – isn’t unusual, especially since this case could hinge on the admissibility of video footage from inside the spa.
“It will be easier to make the legal and factual arguments to a judge than six jurors,” former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein said.
Along with any criminal penalties, Kraft could also be sanctioned as part of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
“We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy,” the NFL said in its second statement after Kraft was charged.
“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.”