So much for that. Kraft pleads not guilty

When we last checked in on Bob Kraft and his little “happy ending” problem down in Florida, he was sending out some mixed signals. After declaring that he was absolutely, positively, 100% innocent of any wrongdoing, he turned around and made a very public apology to his family, his friends and all the fans of the New England Patriots. He said he was “truly sorry” and that he knew he had “hurt and disappointed” all the people in his life. He spoke of his “extraordinary respect for women” and how the women in his life had molded him into the man he is today.

With all of that raw emotion being dumped out into the public eye, I found myself expecting that he might be getting ready to cut a plea deal and put all of that unpleasantness behind him. Clearly, I’m not playing three-dimensional chess on Kraft’s level. His attorneys turned around and plead not guilty on all charges and asked for a jury trial. (Boston Globe)

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution in Florida and asked for a jury trial, a reversal from a prior legal filing in which the billionaire’s defense team requested a judge alone decide the case.

Hours after Kraft’s court filing became public, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the case Tuesday night at the owners meetings in Arizona, saying that the league’s personal conduct policy “applies to everybody.”

He declined to say whether he will punish Kraft, regardless of how his legal situation is resolved.

This leaves us with a few obvious and awkward questions in what could (and probably should) have been a quick, if embarrassing legal matter to clean up. First of all, if Kraft is still sticking to the line of being totally innocent, why would he have offered that seemingly heartfelt apology? If you didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t have anything to be sorry about, right? (We’ll ignore for the moment the uncomfortable claim by the prosecutors that they’ve got him on tape engaging in and paying for sex.)

Also, what’s to be gained by going to a jury trial? If you’re confident that the state’s case won’t hold up, even on a technicality, you probably stand a much better chance going with a bench trial. The only way you benefit from a jury trial is if you think you can cast yourself as a sympathetic figure being unfairly persecuted by the man. Bob Kraft is the man. Do his lawyers really think they’re going to find a fan base in the jury pool for a vastly wealthy, elderly white guy? And just as an aside, let’s not forget that the trial is going to be taking place in Florida and this guy is the owner of the New England Patriots. Whether they are fans of the Dolphins, the Jaguars or the Bucs, half of the people in the jury box will probably be willing to convict him based on nothing more than his football franchise.

Then again, I’m no lawyer and we don’t know exactly what the prosecutor has for evidence. We also don’t know what sort of tricks Kraft’s legal team has up their sleeves either. Maybe he can pull out a win here the same way his football team so often does, but darned if I can see how.