Governor Charlie Baker said Tuesday he was “shocked and surprised” by allegations that New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft paid for sexual encounters at a Florida spa, but he declined to say whether Kraft should step down from the team he’s owned since 1994.
Speaking at the State House, Baker said he has not spoken with Kraft about the charges leveled against the 77-year-old, who police say twice visited a massage parlor that was among 10 targeted amid a major crackdown on human trafficking and prostitution in Florida.
“I would describe it more as just shocked and surprised. And disappointing, sure,” Baker said of his reaction to the allegations, which he called “deeply disturbing.”
Asked whether he believes Kraft should step down, Baker demurred. “I think that’s an issue for the Patriots and the NFL,” he said.
Kraft and nearly 200 other men were swept up in a sprawling law enforcement investigation of Florida massage parlors where authorities say women performed sex acts on eight or more men daily, and were forced to live in the spas.
The details of Kraft’s two alleged visits to the Jupiter spa were outlined in a probable cause affidavit filed in a West Palm Beach courthouse, where Kraft is slated to be arraigned April 24 on two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution. On both occasions, the sexual acts were allegedly captured on video cameras that police had installed, according to court records.
Kraft, who is not in custody, has denied the charges.
Baker said he is not aware of any connection between Massachusetts and the wide-reaching trafficking ring, which authorities say had connections to New York and China. But he noted that one of the women charged in the investigation in Florida had been previously arrested on human trafficking charges in Massachusetts years earlier.
Baker said that the state has focused its own resources on human trafficking, and that his administration, through the State Police, has a “pretty significant relationship” with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and federal authorities on fighting the issue.
“They are making arrests literally all the time,” Baker said.