Judge orders Patriots owner Robert Kraft to appear in court for next hearing in solicitation case

Kraft, who has been absent as his lawyers fight to suppress surveillance video on his behalf, was ordered to appear in court later this month.

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By Doha Madani and Xuan Thai

A judge ordered that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft must appear in court later this month for the next hearing in his Florida solicitation case.

Kraft, 77, pleaded not guilty in February to two counts of soliciting a prostitute at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. Authorities claim he paid for a sex act at the spa on Jan. 19 and again the next morning, hours before the Patriots won the AFC Championship that sent them to the Super Bowl, according to court documents.

Judge Leonard Hanser scheduled a “calendar call" on May 21 to schedule the trial and ordered Kraft, who has been absent in hearings so far, to appear.

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The judge's order was at the end of a hearing Wednesday where he heard arguments from both the state and defense on whether surveillance video that allegedly shows Kraft engaging in illegal sex acts at the spa could be used in the NFL owner's trial.

Previously, Kraft's attorneys filed a motion for a protective order, claiming that publicly releasing the evidence ahead of the trial would invade his privacy and jeopardize his right to a fair trial on the misdemeanor charges.

Hasner ruled last week that the video should not be handed to the media as a public record until a jury is seated, a plea agreement is reached or the state of Florida drops the case.

“This case has drawn extraordinary media attention and it is not because of the nature of the alleged crime,” the ruling states. “Rather, it is because the Defendant is who he is.”

Lawyers for several media organizations, including NBC News, had filed a motion to argue for the release of the video.

Kraft released a statement addressing the charges against him in late March.

“Throughout my life, I have always tried to do the right thing," he said in part. "The last thing I would ever want to do is disrespect another human being. I have extraordinary respect for women."