Lochte incident: What we know, and don't know, so far

RIO DE JANEIRO — There have been many reports and even more subsequent questions surrounding Ryan Lochte and three other U.S. Olympic swimmers after they alleged they were robbed at gunpoint after a party in Rio. Here is what we know and don’t know at this point:

Q: Who are the swimmers?

A: The four swimmers involved in the incident are Americans Ryan Lochte, Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz. Lochte, 32, is the highest-profile swimmer in the group. He competed in his fourth Olympics in Rio, and has six gold medals, three silver and three bronze over his career. He has at times drawn much attention, from flashy sneakers, to wearing a grill after competitions (he wore one during the 2012 Olympics that reportedly cost $25,000), to making the word “Jeah” part of the Olympic vernacular. Lochte also has had a reputation for being a big partygoer. One of the more infamous incidents was him taking on Prince Harry in a late-night swimming duel at a hotel pool in Las Vegas. The paparazzi had a field day.

Lochte’s popularity reached a new high (or low, depending on your point of view) with the debut of his own reality show, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” The show was widely panned by critics and lasted roughly five weeks from April to May 2013.

This isn’t the first time Lochte has made news outside of the pool. In 2005, he was fined $110 and performed 22 hours of community service after being cited for public urination in Gainesville, Florida. Five years later, he pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge filed by University of Florida police (h.

Q: Will Lochte be forced to return to Brazil?

A: It’s highly unlikely that Lochte will be extradited or forced to return to Brazil. The United States and Brazil have a long-standing extradition agreement in the form of a treaty. That treaty outlines the crimes a citizen must be charged with or convicted of in order for the other country to be willing to extradite a citizen. The crimes listed in the U.S.-Brazil treaty — murder, rape, arson, for example — are much more serious than those alleged here. For there to even be consideration of extradition, Brazil would need to charge Lochte — and maybe even convict him — of a crime. But even if that happened, the U.S. government would have to be willing to ship the Olympic swimmer to Brazil. The process would end up a delicate, complicated entanglement of foreign relations.

Q: What’s going on with the swimmers in the legal sense?

A: No charges have been filed or arrests made at this point. Brazilian authorities said the four U.S. swimmers could be charged with false communication of a crime and vandalism if an investigation finds wrongdoing. Brazilian police are leading the investigation and are interviewing the swimmers who remain in Rio. Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz arrived at DEAT, the tourist police department, around 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday for questioning. James Feigen has not been interviewed yet, and Ryan Lochte, who is back in the United States, also has not been interviewed by Brazilian authorities.

Normally, Brazil police investigations must be concluded within 30 days, but if the swimmers are detained in any way, the police must wrap up an investigation in 10 days. This timeline can be extended by court order, as would be appropriate in complex cases. Brazilian officials appear to be working expeditiously to investigate the case. Once the investigation is concluded, the police chief typically would write a detailed report to a judge. The report would also be shared with a prosecutor, who would determine whether to charge the swimmers with a crime, investigate further, or drop the case altogether.

Q: What do we know about the allegations and potential charges?

A: According to The Associated Press, Brazilian officials claim that some or at least one of the swimmers broke down a gas station bathroom door, vandalized the bathroom, and later falsely told local officials they were robbed at gunpoint. Under this scenario, the swimmers could be charged with filing a false police report and/or vandalism. In Brazil, each offense is punishable by one to six months in jail and/or a fine or probation. But jail time is rarely served for such crimes in Brazil, and a public apology or donation to a charity could help lessen any penalties levied.

ESPN senior writer Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN investigative reporter Paula Lavigne and ESPN legal analyst Adrienne Lawrence contributed to this report.



comments powered by Disqus