(Gray News/AP) – New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft apologized Saturday in his first public statement since he was charged with solicitation as part of a Florida sex trafficking sting last month.
Kraft, who was accused by Florida authorities of visiting a massage parlor where women had been trafficked and held against their will for sex acts, said he was “truly sorry” and had “disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The 77-year-old billionaire businessman was said to have visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa twice in a 24-hour span in January, including on the day of the AFC Championship Game.
“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,” he said in his statement. “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.”
Kraft’s wife Myra died in 2011. He said that going forward he hoped 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,” Kraft said. “And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect.”
He said he had refrained from making public comments for so long “in deference to the judicial process” and that he had wanted to say something “for weeks.”
Kraft reportedly backed away from a deal with prosecutors this week that would have seen his charges dropped in exchange for an admission that he would have been found guilty in a trial.
Kraft is one of about 300 men charged in multiple counties between Palm Beach and Orlando as part of a crackdown on illicit massage parlors and human trafficking. Ten parlors have been closed and employees have also been charged. Many of the women are originally from China, were forced to live in the spas and were not allowed to leave without an escort, according to investigators.
Also this week attorneys for Kraft and some of the other men charged asked a judge to block the release of video recordings police say shows them engaging in sexual acts.
Attorneys for Kraft and 14 of the other 24 men charged in Palm Beach County said in court documents filed this week that releasing the video taken secretly by police inside the Orchids of Asia Day spa during January would violate the state’s public records law.