Just about 11 months after the bizarre late-night confrontation that led to Ryan Lochte being charged in Rio with falsely communicating a crime to authorities, an appellate court in Brazil has reportedly dismissed all charges against the gold-medal beefcake.
You may remember, Lochte and three teammates on the U.S. swimming team were confronted by men with guns while cavorting and peeing at a Rio gas station in the wee hours of August 14, 2016. Lochte’s initial version of events had it that the men were robbed at gunpoint, with Lochte having a pistol pressed against his forehead and the group taken for something like $400. Rio police disputed the account, and said the four swimmers were drunk and rowdy at the gas station, tearing down a poster and wrecking a bathroom, and were detained briefly by two Rio police officers moonlighting as armed private security, who took something like $33 dollars off the men to pay for damages. Reporting after the fact seems to indicate the truth is nestled somewhere in between, but that’s now very far beside the point—Lochte apologized and told Brazil’s Jornal Nacional that his story was a hefty embellishment, chalked up to some combination of booze and immaturity.
The charge against Lochte stems not from telling the exaggerated story to NBC days after returning to the U.S., but from telling it to Rio police, who triggered an investigation of the incident. Lochte’s lawyers sought to have the case dismissed, and though a lower court initially ruled the charges were valid, they have now been dismissed by an appellate court, applying a strict interpretation of Brazilian law. From a USA Today report from last year:
Deborah Srour, an attorney who has practiced in Brazil for 25 years, said the two swimmers’ actions do not constitute a crime based on a strict reading of the Brazilian penal code.
“This crime only happens when you go to the police and you make a report, you file a report,’’ said Srour, who added that she has represented Americans arrested in Brazil. “This did not happen.”
The appellate court apparently agreed (from a new USA Today report):
An appeals court on Thursday reversed that decision, 2-1, ruling that Brazilian law was not broken because Rio police had initiated the investigation, not Lochte. Whatever Lochte said in the interview with NBC did not constitute a false report, the court concluded.
Note that this is not the same thing as saying Lochte and his hammered buddies didn’t trash a bathroom and destroy a poster—only that he was not guilty of making a false report when he lied about it. The incident and subsequent media attention cost Lochte a great deal in endorsements, and a 10-month suspension by the IOC and USA Swimming.