WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said he was surprised by the news that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a longtime supporter and friend, was charged with soliciting prostitution on Friday.
While speaking from the Oval Office, Trump called the episode "very sad" and said Kraft has "proclaimed his innocence" against charges that he solicited a prostitute in Florida.
"It's very sad. I was very surprised to see it," the president said. "He's proclaimed his innocence, totally, but I am very surprised to see it."
Kraft, 77, was one of 25 people charged Friday in a wide-ranging investigation into human-trafficking across multiple Florida counties. He has denied the charges.
"We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesman for Kraft said in a statement. "Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."
Jupiter police chief Daniel Kerr said in a news conference that police have video evidence of Kraft engaging in sex acts on two separate visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa last month.
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Kraft and others with the team, including quarterback Tom Brady, have a long and friendly history with Trump. Earlier this month, the president congratulated the team, and specifically Kraft, for a great season and going all the way to the SuperBowl.
The team won the Super Bowl over the Los Angeles Rams.
Last year, the president touted his close relationship with Kraft in a tweet, thanking Kraft for his "excellent advice" on how to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America.
The longtime friends spoke in detail about the plan and he reportedly helped play a key role in securing the bid.
Police said Kraft has been charged with two misdemeanor counts stemming from two separate visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, during which Kraft allegedly paid for sexual services.
According to Florida statutes, a first offense can carry a jail sentence of up to 60 days, and a second offense can result in a sentence of up to one year.
Kraft could also face discipline from the NFL if the league determines he violated the personal conduct policy.
A warrant was issued for Kraft's arrest because he a Massachusettes resident. He had not been arrested as of midday Friday.
Kraft's attorneys will likely arrange a time for him to turn himself into authorities in the coming days. He will likely be eligible for bond and a court date will be scheduled after he surrenders.
Contributing: Tom Schad and Lorenzo Reyes
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'It's very sad': Trump on Patriots owner Robert Kraft's soliciting prostitution charges