By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – Florida prosecutors on Thursday dropped charges against Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots football team, that he sought to pay for sex at a Jupiter massage spa, court papers showed.
The 79-year-old owner of the six-time Super Bowl champions was among dozens of men accused of soliciting prostitution inside Orchids of Asia Spa in February 2019. He has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor charges and issued a public apology for his actions.
A “Nolle Prosse” notice, which means “not willing to prosecute” was filed in Palm Beach County court on Thursday.
“Although there was probable cause to make an arrest, the evidence cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support criminal prosecution,” said the document signed by Assistant State Attorney Judith Arco.
The decision to drop the charges comes after a state appeals court ruled last month that video evidence in the case was not admissible, according to news media outlets in Boston.
His attorneys argued that the surreptitious videotaping of customers, including Kraft, inside a massage parlor was governmental overreach and the result of an illegally obtained search warrant.
Kraft and the other defendants were charged as part of a statewide probe into human trafficking. The investigation in three Florida counties into the trafficking of young women to work at day spas and massage parlors led to hundreds being charged.
Kraft, who has owned the Patriots since 1994, could be subject to National Football League discipline regardless of the outcome of the appeal and trial.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis)