Odds are, if you’ve walked within a few dozen feet of a television sometime in the last few weeks, or know someone who knows someone who uses Facebook, then you’ve heard all about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s fall from grace. But just in case you’re fresh off of a summer-long hike of the Appalachian Trail, here’s a quick summary of what you missed:
On August 14th, Ryan Lochte told members of the media that in the early morning hours of the same day, he and three teammates were forced out of their taxi by men dressed as police officers. According the Lochte, the men pulled out guns and told the Locte and his teammates to get on the ground. His fellow team members complied, but Lochte refused. One of the assailants then cocked his gun and put it to Lochte’s head, compelling him to turn over his wallet. News articles published at the time noted a curious detail: The robbers had apparently left the men with their phones, IDs, and watches. In addition, details of Lochte’s statement changed over time, and the statements of the other men didn’t quite line up.
On August 18th, two days after Lochte left Brazil for home, two of the teammates involved in the incident were pulled off of their plane by Brazilian officials, and were ordered not to leave the country until they gave statements.
Ultimately, it was determined that the alleged robbery never took place. Instead, it turned out that the four men drunkenly broke into a gas station restroom, damaged items in the bathroom, urinated on a wall, and were then detained by a security guard until they paid the guard roughly $50 in compensation for the damages. CCTV footage was released which corroborated this reconstruction of events. Lochte subsequently appeared on Today for an interview in which he apologized for his actions, but stated that he and his teammates were mistreated, and that his original story was simply “over-exaggerated.”
It’s clear that Lochte’s false statement will cost him. Four of his sponsors—Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Airweave, and Gentle Hair Removal—have dropped him as a spokesman. But the more interesting question is, will Lochte face criminal charges in Brazil for his false allegations?
While it’s likely he’ll be charged, the real question is whether he’ll be extradited.
Craig Ashton explained the legal situation facing Lochte et. al.: “Under Brazilian law, it is punishable by up to 6 months in prison and a fine to falsely communicate a crime. And so, because there was a videotape and a Brazilian judge took a look at it, he said, ‘You know what, there’s too many inconsistencies here. You got $400 stolen from you, but one said [there was] one armed person, the other person said ‘some’ armed people. Then the video [of their return to the Olympic Village]… shows that your physical and psychological integrity was unshaken.’ Which is a great way to say it. [The judge went on to say that they were] ‘even making jokes with each other, noting that there was not any psychological disturbance inherent to the supposed violence they allege.’
Tim Hodson: “He could possibly be extradited. Before, no… But if it’s now going to be possibly be felony battery, felony assault, or destruction of property, conspiracy, there’s a whole bunch of different things they could be charged with now that could get him extradited.”
Lochte’s fate depends upon the details of the treaty between the U.S. and Brazil.
Craig: “So, we’ll allay the fears of anybody who feels as though reporting a false crime in Brazil—and you return to the United States—is going to get you extradited. It’s probably not going to happen.
“Let’s talk about why. So, the U.S. Constitution allows the executive branch to ratify treaties. And in 1961… the Brazilian treaty with the United States [was ratified]. And basically, what it says is that, it lists under Article 2 certain crimes that ultimately if you commit in either country, and then you go back to… let’s say it happens in America and you go to Brazil, Brazil would under this treaty extradite you. There’s murder, rape, malicious wounding… kidnapping, bigamy, arson, piracy, burglary, robbery, forgery…
“So I don’t know if he’s breaking into or entering [a property] with the intent to commit a felony. I don’t know what he was doing knocking on the door [of the gas station bathroom]. Was it just a bladder control issue?”
Tim: “That’s what it sounds like from the reports coming in. It sounded like they were trying to get into a bathroom at four in the morning… and the guy wouldn’t let them in, and they basically forced themselves in.”
Craig returned back to the treaty, and the remaining list of crimes that would warrant extradition: “Embezzlement, larceny, and then the one that would [make me wonder]… is perjury. Because there isn’t anything really necessarily talking about making a false report of a crime in the extradition treaty, so perjury would be the one about honesty and false testimony.”
But extradition doesn’t just depend on the crime. It depends on the punishment.
Craig: “So if perjury applies, and Ryan Lochte is now in the United States, then that would be—at least under that provision of the treaty—something that he may be worried about. But then Article 3 of the treaty… essentially it says it has to be a felony, or [a crime punishable by] more than one year of imprisonment in both jurisdictions. And that’s just to prevent the United States from having to extradite people for misdemeanors and vice versa. So based upon the understanding I have with… the ‘false reporting of crimes act’ in Brazil, it’s only six months. So the extradition treaty, under Article 3, would not apply.”
Tim: “Yeah, that’s pretty much the only good advice his attorney gave him was, ‘Get out of Dodge now.’ Even if you get caught doing this, you’re going to be safe, because it’s not an extradition type crime. But… if anything else gets added to it, conspiracy, battery, robbery, burglary, who knows, that could change things.”
So as it stands, it’s unlikely that Lochte will ever have to see the inside of a Brazilian courtroom, let alone a Brazilian jail cell, unless local officials choose to charge him with additional crimes. But regardless of what the Brazilian government chooses to do, it’s probably safe to say that Lochte has already been convicted by a jury of his social media peers.