Rio police indict Lochte & Feigen for falsely reporting robbery
Published August 18, 2016
Police in Rio de Janeiro Thursday indicted U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan Lochte and James Feigen for falsely reporting a crime, the latest twist in a bizarre case that has overshadowed the final week of the Summer Games.
Lochte originally claimed that he, Feigen and teammates Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning. Instead, Rio police used security camera footage to claim that the athletes were not robbed, but had vandalized a gas station bathroom.
Under Brazilian law, a judge must decide whether to accept the police indictment. If the judge does not accept the indictment, the case will be dropped. Falsely reporting a crime is punishable by a fine or up to six months in prison.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said in a statement late Thursday that the swimmers’ behavior was “not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members.”
The USOC said that Feigen had given “a revised statement” to police “with the hope of securing the release of his passport as soon as possible.” Lochte returned to the U.S. earlier this week, before a Brazilian judge ordered the swimmers’ passports seized.
“We apologize to our hosts in Rio and the people of Brazil for this distracting ordeal in the midst of what should rightly be a celebration of excellence,” the USOC statement added.
Conger and Bentz were not indicted because they did not speak to police until Wednesday, when they were pulled off a flight bound for the United States by authorities, and never claimed they had been robbed. The USOC confirmed that the pair had been given back their passports and flew out of Rio Thursday night.
Because Lochte and Feigen are first-time offenders, they will likely only be fined if the judge accepts the indictment.
At Thursday’s news conference, Rio police said a security guard pointed a gun at the athletes as the swimmers attempted to leave the scene in a taxi cab before police arrived.
“Yes, according to the security guards, they said that because one of them was very upset,” Rio de Janeiro chief of civil police Fernando da Silva Veloso said through a translator. “So if there was a use of an arm it was to contain them.”
Once they were contained, “the weapon was holstered,” da Silva Veloso said. The athletes were outside of the cab when the weapon was pointed at them.
Police said Lochte was the individual at the gas station who appeared “most upset,” and da Silva Veloso confirmed that the group was “under the influence” during the encounter.
Police said the athletes ultimately gave money — “voluntarily” — to the owner of the gas station to repair the alleged damages. Asked if the use of a gun could have been seen by the swimmers as an extortion attempt, da Silva Veloso said “For now, there’s nothing that indicates this.”
The police chief, however, left open the door that the use of a weapon could have been seen by the Olympians as being excessive behavior.
“Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on the circumstance,” said da Silva Veloso, who declined to identify the security guards.
He said the guards’ guns were registered and their actions are not “suspect.”
Informed that an attorney for Lochte believed the Rio police had “overreached” during their investigation, da Silva Velos responded: “We don’t have anyone with a clown’s nose here. I think his comments merit that response.”
Lochte described the alleged robbery to NBC’s “Today” show Sunday.
“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over,” Lochte said. “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground.
“And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials.”
NBC reported Wednesday night that Lochte backed off some of his earlier claims about the robbery. He now says the taxi wasn’t pulled over by men with a badge, but that they were robbed after stopping at a gas station, NBC reported. Lochte also said the assailant pointed a gun at him rather than putting it to his head.
But Lochte also said no one in law enforcement asked him to stay in the country for additional questioning and reportedly expressed surprise at the casual nature of authorities’ questioning.
Asked by NBC’s Matt Lauer if he had made the robbery story up, Lochte denied the charge.
“He stopped me quickly and strongly denied that,” Lauer said. “He said, ‘That’s absolutely not the case. I wouldn’t make up a story like this, nor would the others. As a matter of fact, we all feel it makes us look bad. We’re victims in this and we’re happy that we’re safe.'”
But the group did not call police, authorities said, and officers began investigating once they saw media reports in which Lochte’s mother spoke about the robbery.
Police interviewed Lochte and Feigen, who said they had been intoxicated and could not remember what type and color of taxi they rode in or where the robbery happened, the police official said. The swimmers also could not say what time the events occurred.
Lochte told USA Today that he and his teammates didn’t initially tell U.S. Olympic officials about the robbery “because we were afraid we’d get in trouble.”
Fox News’ Steve Harrigan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.