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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has entered a not guilty plea to charges of soliciting prostitution at a Florida massage parlor, and also has hired a close friend of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a lawyer in the case, court records show.
Kraft's local lawyer, Jack Goldberger, also has requested a non-jury trial for two misdemeanor counts facing the 77-year-old billionaire in Palm Beach County Court, according to a filing there. The so-called bench trial that Kraft wants would have a judge acting as both judge and jury in his case.
Goldberger is representing Kraft along with avid Patriots fan William Burck, a high-powered Washington, D.C., attorney who is a longtime friend of Kavanaugh's, with whom he worked in the White House during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Last year, Burck was hired by Bush to lead a legal team that reviewed documents from his administration before they were released to the Senate committee reviewing Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Burck also represented President Donald Trump's former White House counsel, Don McGahn, in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing probes, and crafted the controversial strategy of having McGahn spend more than 30 hours talking to Mueller's investigators.
Kraft, a Trump friend whose professional football team won its sixth Super Bowl earlier this month, is accused of soliciting sexual services for pay on two consecutive days at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, which is located in an unglamorous strip mall in Jupiter, Florida.
His second alleged visit there, on Jan. 20, occurred hours before he attended the AFC championship game in Kansas City, Missouri, where the Patriots defeated the Chiefs.
Kraft, who is a widower, was seen on an undercover surveillance video receiving sexual services, according to authorities, who have charged two dozen other men in connection with the probe of the Orchids of Asia spa.
Police have been investigating possible human trafficking of the women who worked there. Neither Kraft nor the other men charged in the case have been accused of human trafficking.
The Patriots owner has a house not far from the spa, to which he was driven in different colored Bentleys during his separate visits, authorities have said. During his first visit, police claimed, Kraft was massaged by two women. During his second visit, police claim, just one woman was in the room with him.
If convicted of the charges, Kraft faces up to one year in prison. He also faces a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and attending a class on the dangers of human trafficking — all of which are mandatory.
Kraft is now scheduled to be arraigned in the case on March 27. By entering a not guilty plea before then, he reportedly will not have to appear in person in court for that proceeding.
Goldberger and Burck did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNBC.
After news of the charges against Kraft broke last week, a spokesman for him said: "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."
On Monday, the National Football League said it will "handle this allegation" against Kraft "in the same way we would handle any issue under" the league's personal conduct policy.
"We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts."
The conduct policy mandates that owners, players and other employees refrain from "conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in" the NFL.