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‘I am truly sorry:’ Robert Kraft issues his first statement after prostitution charge

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Atlanta. Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor. Jupiter police told reporters Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, that the 77-year-old Kraft has not been arrested. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Atlanta. Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor. Jupiter police told reporters Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, that the 77-year-old Kraft has not been arrested. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) AP

The 77-year-old owner of the New England Patriots issued a statement Saturday apologizing after being charged in February on misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution during two visits at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, a spa that police suspect had been involved in human trafficking.

“I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard,” Kraft said in the statement, obtained by ESPN and scores of other news outlets. “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. I have extraordinary respect for women.”

“As I move forward, I hope 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. And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect.”

Kraft said he had remained silent in the aftermath of his publicized charges out of “deference to the judicial process.”

Immediately after the charges were announced, a Patriots spokesperson insisted Kraft’s innocent. Police said they had video proof of his visits, during which he paid for sexual acts.

He and other busted in Jupiter last month have been offered a “pre-trial diversion” deal which would result in his charges being dropped, which is routine for low-level arrests.

Pre-trial diversion programs generally require defendants to admit guilt and complete conditions such as taking anti-crime classes, community service and paying fines before the charges are dropped.

In his statement, Kraft said his lawyer commented for the first time Friday to “to correct some of the misinformation surrounding this matter.”

“There was no human trafficking and law enforcement knows it,” attorney William Burck told ESPN. “The video and the traffic stop were illegal and law enforcement just doesn’t want to admit it. The state attorney needs to step up and do the right thing and investigate how the evidence in this case was obtained.”

Kraft’s charges were part of a sweeping sex trafficking sting that netted hundreds of men in a span of two weeks, mostly through Palm Beach, Martin and Indian River Counties.

The case drew attention to the plague of human trafficking in the U.S. and also shined a spotlight on the spa’s founder, Li “Cindy” Yang, who — like Kraft — is a supporter of President Donald Trump. She even watched the Super Bowl in February with Trump and his supporters, snagging a selfie with POTUS during his annual watch party at his West Palm Beach country club. The Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams, and the team earned its sixth championship.

A month before the Big Game, Yang helped two Chinese-born tech executives photographs with the president at $50,000 a pop to benefit his re-election campaign. While neither man appears to have contributed to Trump’s election war chest, Yang and her associates have advertised businesses that connect Chinese clients with U.S. politicians — and they donated $135,000 to Trump Victory in the weeks leading up to the events.

Selling tickets to campaign fundraisers without disclosing the buyer to the Federal Election Commission is illegal. Foreign nationals are banned from donating to American political causes, so selling the tech executives tickets would also violate the law.

Yang, who sold the day spa Kraft visited in 2013, has not been charged, maintaining her innocence.

Congressional Democrats have requested a counterintelligence probe into her activities, including whether she violated foreign lobbying rules or campaign finance law.

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