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Patriots owner apologizes after prostitution charges

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is interviewed after his team's Super Bowl victory over the Los Angeles Rams on February 3, 2019 (AFP Photo/Maddie Meyer)

Miami (AFP) - NFL champion New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft apologized on Saturday in a statement, making his first public comments since being charged with soliciting prostitution last month in Florida.

The 77-year-old billionaire was among 25 men charged with soliciting prostitution in two January visits to a South Florida massage parlor, accused of paying for illicit sex after a police investigation into human trafficking and women forced into prostitution.

"I am truly sorry," Kraft said. "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 has pleaded innocent on two misdemeanor solicitation charges but had made no comment until the statement, posted on the NFL's website.

"In deference to the judicial process, I have remained silent these past several weeks," Kraft said. "I would like to use this opportunity to say something that I have wanted to say for four weeks."

Kraft, whose club defeated the Los Angeles Rams last month to capture their third Super Bowl crown in five seasons, said that his late wife Myra had helped his develop a greater than normal respect for women.

"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," he said.

"My morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life, who I was blessed to have as my partner for 50 years," he added.

Kraft, set to be arraigned Thursday, asked to be judged by future deeds.

"As I move forward, I hope to continue to use the platform with which I have been blessed to help others and to try and make a difference," he said.

"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."

The State Attorney for Palm Beach has offered Kraft and others the standard diversion program offered to first-time offenders, which would require paying a fine and working 100 hours of community service as well as taking an education program on human trafficking and its link to prostitution.

Police said there was evidence several of the women apprehended at the spa where the ring was operating were made to reside there.

Kraft will attend the NFL's annual meetings that begin on Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona.