United Press International
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (UPI) — A Brazilian appellate court cleared U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte of criminal charges after police alleged Lochte exaggerated claims of an armed robbery at a Rio gas station during the 2016 Games.
The incident began when Lochte, 32, and three U.S. swimming teammates, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen, were returning from a party celebrating the end of the swimming competition at the Rio Games. Lochte told NBC News in an interview their taxi stopped at a gas station and they were subsequently robbed at gunpoint.
Police investigated the matter and said the altercation was actually the swimmers’ fault because they drunkenly vandalized a bathroom. Brazilian police attempted to detain the swimmers and did briefly hold Feigen for questioning.
They filed charges against Lochte for falsely reporting a crime, but the swimmer had already left the country.
Lochte, whose 12 Olympic medals ranks second all-time among U.S. swimmers behind Michael Phelps, was pilloried in the media and several sponsors cut ties with him in the wake of the incident. USA Swimming also suspended Lochte from competition for 10 months.
However, a subsequent investigation by USA Today found the basic elements of Lochte’s story were true. Security guards at the gas station did brandish weapons and the paper said the swimmers did not vandalize the bathroom as police alleged, though the security guards demanded money in exchange for the damage anyway. The guards wound up taking about $50 before letting the athletes go.
The Brazilian court ruled that, because police initiated the investigation into the incident, Lochte could not be held responsible for false reporting.
“We are pleased that the court has finally dismissed the criminal prosecution against Mr. Lochte, while at the same time, appropriately recognizing that he committed no crime. It has been a long year, but in the end, justice prevailed,” Jeff Ostrow, Lochte’s Florida-based attorney, said.
Brazilian prosecutors have 15 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling.
United Press International is an international news agency whose newswires, photo, news film, and audio services provided news material to thousands of newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations for most of the 20th century.
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