Robert Kraft pleads “not guilty” to soliciting prostitution

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, accused of soliciting prostitution, submitted an official plea of “not guilty” on Thursday.

In a move that was widely expected but will still face intense scrutiny and criticism, embattled New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft submitted a plea of “not guilty” to solicitation charges on Thursday.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, Kraft’s attorneys requested a non-jury trial in their official court filing. The court date was also moved up from its original time of 8:30 am EST on April 24 to the new time of 8:30 am EST on March 27. This change should theoretically benefit the Patriots, as it will allow Kraft’s trial to occur well before the 2019 NFL draft – which begins on April 25, the day after his originally-scheduled court date.

Kraft has been accused of soliciting a prostitute and paying for sex while visiting the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. The massage parlor has since been closed down and its operators reportedly face charges of human trafficking. The police crackdown is part of a larger parlor prostitution ring sting set up by Florida authorities, and could result in hundreds of business closures and individual arrests before all is said and done.

Reportedly, police received judicial permission to set up undercover cameras in the parlors; said recording equipment has been claimed to have captured footage of Kraft paying for and then receiving illicit services from parlor employee(s). Whether or not the tapes will be made public (or leaked unintentionally) remains to be seen.

On Monday, new reports revealed the timing of Kraft’s reported visits to the day spa, claiming he frequented it twice within a 24-hour window. Notably, the visits occurred just hours before his New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game – a contest Kraft personally attended on the evening of Sunday, January 20.

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Some sports analysts with knowledge of the situation have claimed their sources indicate that if convicted, Kraft could receive stiffer discipline and penalties than Colts owner Jim Irsay received from the NFL back in 2014 for getting a DWI.

Kraft released a statement through an official spokesperson last Friday, who reiterated that his legal team “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.” His official plea submittal today would seem to corroborate that belief.