Analyst: If guilty, US swimmers' crimes could merit prison time

Posted at 5:04 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 22:44:19-04

DENVER -- It may be a minor crime, but U.S. swimmers on the Olympic team have officially been indicted with filing false reports to authorities, including Ryan Lochte. 

The crime could land them in Brazilian prison cells for up to six months, according to Denver7 Legal Analyst Dan Recht

"It clearly is a crime, but a minor crime," Recht said. 

But many have questions about the implications for the gold medalists, especially after authorities in Brazil filed indictments against Lochte and James Feigen. Both are part of a four-swimmer group from the U.S. men's team that claimed they were robbed at gunpoint by police.

On Thursday, Brazilian authorities said the allegations were unfounded, unveiling a video of Lochte and others tangling with a security guard after beating on a convenience store's bathroom door.

Recht said it's unlikely that Lochte will be extradited to Brazil, noting the swimmer had already made his way out of the country before police halted travel for the four swimmers.

"If it's true that Lochte made up the robbery, it's a huge blemish on the United States, because the allegations go right to the heart of the stereotype in Brazil, and I can imagine Brazilians are upset about this," Recht said, explaining why Brazilian authorities are taking the case so seriously. 

Recht said the gold medalist never made claims to police, according to Lochte's legal team. Recht added the legal team explained that Lochte told his mother about the incident, prompting her to call Brazilian authorities. 

That call could possibly land his compatriots behind bars.

Recht said that's not an uncommon thing, noting he has clients across the globe trapped in other nations, including in Indonesia.

If they don't carefully move forward, Recht said they could spend much more time than desired in the South American nation.

"The swimmers that are there could easily spend time in jail if convicted of this," Recht said. "Brazil is holding them, and I don't think they're going to be home any time soon." 

They will reportedly find some help in the United States Department of State, but the extent of their help is limited. 

"The U.S. State Department will try to help them, I would guess, but they have only so much authority, so with some regularity, American citizens are held in other countries without the ability to leave." 

Luckily for the Olympians, they will likely not be stripped of medals. Recht said the only body that can disqualify athletes is the Olympic Committee, and there isn't much precedence for disqualification for actions outside of the games. 

Unfortunately for Lochte, Recht said, "We can safely predict [he] won't be vacationing in Brazil any time soon." 

He also won't be seeing his teammates in the United States soon, either. 


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