Robert Kraft will not appear in Fla. court at March 28 hearing on soliciting prostitution charges
New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft will not appear in court March 28 to be arraigned on two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a Florida day spa that authorities allege has links to international human trafficking, his attorney said Thursday.
Citing court records, the Globe reported earlier Thursday that Kraft was required to show up in a Palm Beach County courthouse. But defense attorney Jack A. Goldberger subsequently issued a statement saying that his 77-year-old client is not required to appear under Florida court rules.
“This is a routine procedural hearing that the Court sets based on its schedule,’’ the West Palm Beach defense attorney wrote in an e-mail. “The notice of appearance by the defendant is boilerplate, but in fact the lawyer appears for the defendant in a misdemeanor case.”
He added, “The defendant does not appear.”
Kraft was charged by Jupiter police for visiting a day spa in the beachfront town on Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 when he allegedly paid for sex acts to be performed on him by a woman. The charges against Kraft were part of a three-county crackdown on sex trafficking masquerading at day spas, an investigation that led to charges against some 200 men.
Through Goldberger, Kraft has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Stacey James, a Kraft spokesman, said Thursday he had no information about the upcoming court date when reached by phone.
The court papers Goldberger described as boilerplate included the directive in all capital letters, “THE DEFENDANT MUST BE PRESENT AT THIS HEARING.”
A stipulation initially filed under seal in Kraft’s case was later made public. In the document, Judge Frank S. Castor only asked prosecutors and the defense to agree to the new date of March 28. The change of date was made “per judges’ request,’’ according to court records.
Kraft has hired several lawyers to represent him in the case, including Goldberger and New York-based attorneys William A. Burck, a former federal prosecutor and White House lawyer during President George W. Bush’s administration, and Alex Spiro, who is currently a guest lecturer at Harvard Law School.
The National Football League has said its personnel policies extend to team owners and has opened its own inquiry into the criminal charges against Kraft, whose leadership of the Patriots has made it one of the most successful franchises in the history of professional sports.
The league holds its winter meeting March 24 to 27 in Phoenix, meaning that court activity in the Kraft case will take place after the NFL meetings have ended.
Asked Thursday whether Kraft planned to attend the meetings, James said, “I don’t have any update on that.”
Authorities allege that Kraft was driven to the Florida spa in a white 2014 Bentley on Jan. 19, when he entered the spa and allegedly paid a woman to perform a sex act on him. He was stopped by police and identified through his driver’s license, according to court records.
Police said he returned the following day — arriving in a blue 2015 Bentley — around 11 a.m. and later that day was in Kansas City for the AFC championship game won by the Patriots.
Jupiter police have said that they obtained a “sneak and peek” search warrant to install a camera inside the spa, located in a Jupiter shopping plaza, and that the sex acts involving Kraft and 24 other men were secretly recorded.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, whose office is prosecuting Kraft and 24 other men charged in the case, has said that many of the women in sex trafficking rings are “themselves victims,” and he called brothels populated by human trafficking victims an “evil in our midst.”
During the multicounty investigation, authorities have asserted that some women were immigrants from China who became victims of sex trafficking and had been forced to live and work in the spas for extended period of time.
Two women were arrested for their alleged roles in operating the Jupiter day spa. They both have pleaded not guilty to numerous charges, and the cases against them are pending, according to Florida court records.