Charges Reportedly Recommended for Ryan Lochte and James Feigen Over Disputed Robbery Claim
Lochte returned to the United States Wednesday, and Feigen is reportedly still in Brazil
Police have recommended the pair face charges of false reporting of a crime, according to ABC. Three sources confirmed the recommendation to PEOPLE. (ABC earlier reported that Feigen and Lochte were indicted on those charges, before clarifying.)
The possible charges are in connection with a days-long controversy after both men told police they were robbed at gunpoint Sunday during the Olympic Games, as they rode home from a party with two other teammates.
It was not immediately clear if Feigen had retained an attorney in Brazil. Lochte’s attorney, Jeff Ostrow, declined to comment to PEOPLE about the recommended charges. When first reached about reports of an indictment, which ABC News later walked back, Ostrow said, “News to me.”
He told ABC News in a statement that “a gun was pointed at the swimmers and they were forced to get out of their cab and give up their money. No matter what happened at that gas station, the swimmers were robbed by people with a gun appearing to be law enforcement. No matter what country you are in that is robbery and robbery is a serious crime.”
In an earlier statement obtained by PEOPLE, Patrick Sandusky, a United States Olympic Committee spokesman, said Bentz, Conger and Feigen were “cooperating with authorities and in the process of scheduling a time and place today to provide further statements to the Brazilian authorities.”
“All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio,” Sandusky said.
Lochte first recounted the robbery to his mother, Ileana Lochte, who shared the story with reporters, a police official told the Associated Press. The ensuing media coverage led to a police investigation and authorities soon cast doubt on the account, later alleging the swimmers lied about a robbery to cover other behavior at a local gas station.
A Brazilian judge on Wednesday ordered the seizure of Lochte’s passport, as police sought him for further questioning, but he had already returned to the U.S.
Feigen is reportedly still in Brazil and he was speaking with local police, NBC News reported Thursday night.
The two other swimmers involved in the incident, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were taken off an airplane headed to the United States on Wednesday and detained for questioning. They were released without being charged, but remain in Rio.
NBC reported Thursday night that Bentz and Conger will likely head back to the U.S. within a few days.
“I don’t know that they knew how serious this was, and that they were about to start an international incident,” a member of Team U.S.A. told PEOPLE Wednesday after they were detained. “The feeling was that this was Ryan’s issue, because he was the one who had talked to police the most, but this is a big deal for all of them.”
‘This Is the Real Story’
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Rio’s Chief of Civil Police Fernando Veloso said the swimmers were confronted Sunday by security guards carrying guns when they stopped at a gas station on their way home from a party.
“This is the real story,” Veloso alleged. “When they left the party they stopped at the gas station. One or all of them started to vandalize the bathroom inside of the gas station, damaging some mirrors and things that were inside.”
Security guards then allegedly confronted the four swimmers and the manager of the gas station allegedly asked the men to pay for the damage, Veloso said.
He alleged a confrontation ensued during which Lochte was “very angry because he was intoxicated.”
Veloso added that the investigation was ongoing and he could not say if Lochte was the only individual allegedly liable for the confrontation. But Veloso said witnesses at the scene described the 32-year-old swimmer as “more physically outwardly angry or nervous” at the time.
One of the guards then drew his firearm to “control the situation,” Veloso said. He said he not think this constituted excessive force.
“We have two security guards, we have four very strong men with inappropriate behavior breaking things and showing that they were ready to bring this violence against guards or people,” Veloso alleged. “So the guard is probably justified in this case.”
Someone at the gas station called the police, but by the time the police arrived, the swimmers were gone, Veloso said.
The incident was captured in CCTV footage, obtained by PEOPLE, that shows the men attempting to get into the wrong cab to leave the scene, then being asked to get out of their second cab by gas station security.
But a Lochte source told PEOPLE that three minutes missing from the CCTV tape support Lochte’s story. (The released footage does apparently include a jump in time, according to its timestamps.)
“The video backs up what they’re saying,” the source says. “There are three minutes in the middle of the video that are missing, that no one has picked up on. The video does not show them running out of the bathroom – if they had trashed it don’t you think they’d be running? There is no footage that has been released that has them smashing up a bathroom.”
What Happens Next?
Even with an indictment, it’s unlikely that the U.S. would extradite Lochte to Brazil, a legal expert told PEOPLE Wednesday.
“There is an extradition treaty between the U.S. and Brazil,” David Kubiliun, of Greenspoon Marder’s criminal law practice group in Florida, said. “But it seems that the United States would probably not cooperate with the extradition.”
“Given the fact that this is, at best, a misdemeanor, I find it very hard to believe that the U.S. would participate in an extradition,” Kubiliun, who is unconnected with the case, told PEOPLE.
If Lochte and Feigen are found guilty of falsely reporting a crime or misdemeanor, they could face one to six months’ detention or a fine, according a translation of Brazil’s penal code.
“The truth is that this crime in Brazil is not that serious,” Judge Marcello Rubioli, head of the special court handling the case involving the four American swimmers, told the New York Times of making a false report. “It results in very little punishment.”
“If they are found guilty, they would just have to make a payment to [a nongovernmental organization] that does humanitarian work,” Rubioli said “It’s not a serious crime. It’s not a crime that is going to send them to prison.”
Speaking candidly Thursday, Chief Veloso concluded that at the very least, Lochte and the other swimmers owed an apology to the city and people of Rio.
“They need to apologize not to the police but to the city of Rio that had its name tainted by a very untruthful story,” he said.
Lochte’s coach of three years, David Marsh, said that he has not spoken to Lochte but he expects the Olympian to apologize for his role in the controversy.
“I’m sure he feels terrible about his USA teammates being detained and the attention that the incident has drawn to the whole matter – and away from the amazing Olympic athletes competing in Rio,” Marsh told the Charlotte Observer. “I would expect he will apologize for any part he may have played in escalating the situation when his lawyer advises him to do so.”
• With reporting by ADAM CARLSON and STEVE HELLING