-- U.S. Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte may be back in the U.S., but three of his swimming teammates allegedly involved in the reported robbery with Lochte, remain in Brazil.
Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were pulled off their U.S.-bound flight by Brazilian authorities Wednesday as police continue to investigate the alleged incident. Lochte has claimed the group was robbed at gunpoint early Sunday morning, an assertion disputed by Brazilian police.
The passport of swimmer James Feigen was also requested by authorities, and Feigen remains in Brazil along with Conger and Bentz. Lochte had already left Brazil before a Brazilian judge ordered the seizure of his passport.
So what's next for Lochte's teammates in Brazil?
U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Conger and Bentz were detained Wednesday night "shortly before their flight was scheduled to depart from Rio."
"They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident," he said. "James Feigen is also communicating with local authorities and intends to make further statements."
Sandusky said Bentz, Conger and Feigen "are cooperating with authorities and in the process of scheduling a time and place today to provide further statements to the Brazilian authorities."
He added: "All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio."
Sergio Riera, a Brazilian criminalist who is the attorney for Conger and Bentz, said the swimmers "didn't understand why they couldn't board the plane."
"They were very scared. It's confusing because the police chief is saying one thing, and the judge is saying something else," Riera said.
When asked by reporters if his clients were indeed robbed, Riera said, "I haven't managed to talk to them yet. Until we talk to them, we won't be able to understand what happened. We haven't talked to them yet because they're very scared. They are ready to cooperate with the police chief."
The three swimmers could potentially face charges of falsifying a police report and vandalism.
In Brazil, both crimes are punishable by one to six months in jail, a fine or probation. But “rarely do people actually serve time for this,” said Brazilian law expert Paulo Barrozo, who is not involved in the case.
Barrozo predicts that if the swimmers were charged and convicted, the “embarrassment and shaming would be bigger than any legal consequences.” Most likely the athletes would pay a fine and perhaps be asked to apologize or donate to a charity.
There would likely be an out-of-court settlement to resolve the matter quickly. A well-crafted apology, said Barrozo, “would go a long way with the court.”
Judge Keyla Blanc de Cnop will decide whether the swimmers are being truthful and providing sufficient information based on police reports.
This case is being handled by a special court set up for big sporting events, which by law, must expedite proceedings. If they are charged, Barrozo predicts that it would be resolved in about a week as a bench trial before the judge and not a jury. If it was handled by a regular Brazilian court, Barrozo thinks the “outcome would probably be the same,” but it would take a lot longer.
Alternatively, if the judge believes the swimmers are being honest and forthcoming, she’ll likely let them go home in a day or two. Technically, she could charge them later, but the chances of them being extradited to Brazil are slim.
What about Lochte?
Multiple legal experts agree that Lochte almost certainly would not be extradited over an incident this minor.
Likewise, if Bentz, Conger and Feigen return to the U.S. and are later charged, they almost certainly would not be brought back to Brazil.
Jeff Ostrow, an attorney for Lochte, told ESPN that authorities have not reached Lochte since he gave his initial statement Sunday night.
“The authorities know how to get in touch with me and we would cooperate,” Ostrow said. “But I haven’t heard from anyone.”
Lochte was not asked by authorities to stay in the country, Ostrow added.