RIO DE JANEIRO — US Olympic swimmer Jimmy Feigen left Brazil Friday after agreeing to make a charitable donation of nearly $11,000 Friday over a robbery he and three teammates falsely claimed to have occurred in Rio.
Feigen's legal representative announced Thursday evening that an agreement had been reached with Brazilian authorities following a four-hour meeting with a judge and government officials at a police station.
Feigen's passport was returned to him Friday. He left the country hours later after donating 35,000 Reals (about $10,800) to Brazilian charity Instituto Reacao (Reaction Institute).
Despite the agreement to donate to charity, Brazilian prosecutors indicated Friday that they wanted Feigen to pay more. In a court document, the Rio’s State Attorneys’ Office argued that it didn’t agree on how much the athlete should be charged. Prosecutors wanted Feigen to pay a 150,000 reais fine ($47,000), but during the negotiations his lawyers said that he wouldn’t able to pay that much and that the amount was “disproportionate” to the circumstances.
Feigen had earlier provided a "revised statement" to police after he and teammate Ryan Lochte were indicted on charges of lying about being held up at gunpoint Sunday by robbers impersonating police, the US Olympic Committee said.
On Thursday night, fellow US Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were allowed to leave Brazil after the athletes provided statements to law enforcement officials about the alleged robbery, which police say never happened.
Bentz issued a public statement Friday night, saying he was sorry “this situation has drawn attention away from the Olympics, which have been hosted so incredibly well by Brazil and its citizens.” He goes on to say that he was only ever a witness, not a suspect, in the case.
The developments are the latest twist in a bizarre, reportedly alcohol-fueled case that began with a lie from Lochte to his mother. It resulted in two swimmers being dramatically dragged off a flight from Rio at the last second and involving law enforcement officials on two continents.
“There was no robbery as it was reported," Chief of Civil Police Fernando Veloso said at a news conference Thursday. "The robbery they said they were victims of did not happen.”
The swimmers — Lochte, 32; Bentz, 20; Conger, 21; and Feigen, 26 — were coming home from a party at France House on Sunday evening when they vandalized a gas station restroom, Veloso said, damaging mirrors and a door.
Scott Blackmun, CEO of the US Olympic Committee, said in a statement Thursday that one of the four athletes had committed the vandalism, but did not specify who.
Employees tried to intervene, and eventually security guards — who were off-duty police officers — got involved. Lochte was acting so "out of control, unsettled," Veloso said, that at least one guard pulled his gun on him.
Police were called, and the guards demanded the swimmers pay for the damages in cash. They handed over 100 real, Brazil's currency, and $20, then left, Veloso said.
In his statement Friday, Bentz presented his own version of events. He said that the swimmers pulled over at a gas station and urinated in some bushes, but that "to my knowledge, there was no damage done to the door or the inside of the restroom."
Bentz also said he saw Lochte pull an advertisement off a brick wall and get into a "heated verbal exchange" with two security guards who had drawn their guns. According to the statement, the incident ended when Bentz and Feigen handed over the money they were carrying — 100 reais, Brazil's currency, and $20 — and the guards gestured to them that they could leave.
The confrontation at the gas station and the false report of a robbery has caught international headlines as the Olympic games and Brazil remain in the global spotlight.
On Thursday night, the incident also prompted an apology from the US Olympic Committee.
"On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, 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," Blackmun said. "With three days remaining in the Olympic Games, our primary focus will remain on supporting the athletes who are still competing and celebrating the achievements of those who have finished."
Although Feigen's agreement would appear to settle the charges against him, it was still unclear if Lochte would face any legal consequences after police filed an indictment in the case on Thursday.
In Brazil, an indictment, or "indiciamento," is a preliminary conclusion of the investigation by police. After an indictment, a case is then handed over to prosecutors who decide whether to file charges in court.
Once in court, a judge would still have to decide whether the case becomes official.
The charges would likely be related to vandalism and filing a false police report, Veloso said. He called on the swimmers to to apologize, saying it'd be the right thing to do.
Meanwhile the other two swimmers involved in the incident, Bentz and Conger, spoke to police for the first time Thursday, their attorney Sergio Riera told BuzzFeed News.
They were not named in an indictment.
"They were heard on condition of witnesses, not suspects," Riera said. "There is no reason for the Court to retain their passports. Once passports are released they will be on a plane to return to the United States."
After speaking with Rio authorities, officials released the passports belonging to both Bentz and Conger.
They statements to police on Thursday. One of them said Lochte made up the robbery story, Veloso said. Feigen is apparently still in Brazil.
The two checked in for a flight out of Brazil Thursday night, the Associated Press reported.
Lochte and Feigen initially gave a statement to the police about being robbed, Veloso said. Lochte then returned to the US. The FBI is helping facilitate a follow-up interview with police in Rio.
When asked if the swimmers thought they were being robbed, Veloso insisted the situation could not have been interpreted that way.
Globo TV had obtained video of the swimmers at the gas station bathroom. The images then show one of the swimmers putting his hands up as guards approach.
When one reporter asked what Veloso would say to the allegation of Lochte’s lawyer that Rio police made a circus out of the case, Veloso answered: “Are you seeing any clown nose? There is no one here with a clown nose.”
Some of the swimmers arrived at a police station in a car on Thursday, but when they saw media they pulled away. Two of them, Bentz and Conger, later went into the station though a private entrance.
Bentz arriving at a Rio police station Thursday.
"All are represented by counsel and being appropriately supported by the USOC and the U.S. Consulate in Rio,” USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky said Thursday.
Lochte initially lied to his mother, Ileana, about being robbed on Sunday, the AP reported. His mother then spoke to the media, who reported on the story. Veloso said police found out about the incident on social media and began investigating.
BuzzFeed News reached out to Lochte’s attorney, Jeff Ostrow, for comment about the latest allegations by Brazilian authorities, and is awaiting a response. Sérgio Riera, a lawyer for Conger and Bentz, did not make a statement to media at a police station.
Feigen told the San Antonio Express-News on Thursday that "we were robbed at gunpoint...it sounds like people assume we’re guilty."
The police's account comes after two of the swimmers, Bentz and Conger, were hauled off a plane in Brazil leaving for the US on Wednesday evening.
The four said they were held up early Sunday on their way to the Olympic Village after leaving a party at France House.
Here are three videos of the swimmers around France House that police released Thursday:
Mario Andrada, the spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee, said in a Thursday morning press briefing that "no apologies" from Lochte and the other swimmers are needed, and to give "these kids a break," according to Greg Wyshynski, a reporter for Yahoo Sports.
Andrada reportedly said:
I do not regret having apologized. No apologies from him or other athletes are needed. We have to understand that these kids came here to have fun. Let's give these kids a break. Sometimes you make decisions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.
On Thursday, police obtained surveillance footage that contradicted the swimmers' statements, investigators told BuzzFeed News.
Video time-logs from inside France House do not appear to coincide with the timeline the athletes gave to police. The Brazilian Equestrian Society, a site rented by the French delegation, has security cameras at the entrance and throughout the facility, as well as X-ray machines.
Bentz and Conger leave a police station in the Rio airport Thursday, accompanied by Brazilian lawyer Sergio Riera.
On Tuesday, the Daily Mail published a video showing the athletes arriving at the village around 7 a.m. In their statements to police, the swimmers indicated they left France House around 4 a.m. The trip generally doesn’t take that long, investigators said.
After the initial robbery report, investigators said they were given authorization to enter the Olympic Village in order to collect the swimmers’ phones. Investigators wanted to analyze GPS records to determine where the swimmers were early Sunday.
ABC News, citing authorities in Brazil, reported Thursday that video shows a swimmer “breaking down” a restroom door at a gas station and “fighting” with a guard.
The police also said there were apparent contradictions in the swimmers’ description of the assailants. The athletes said the taxi they were in from France House to the Village was stopped by assailants dressed as police officers. But the swimmers provided few details and claimed they were intoxicated at the time of the alleged robbery, police said.
In a phone interview Wednesday night, Today's Matt Lauer asked Lochte to detail the incident and asked him about differences in his accounts.
Initially, Lochte had told media that a robber had cocked his gun and pointed it directly on his forehead. In his conversation with Lauer on Wednesday, he said the robber pointed the gun in his direction.
“He feels it was more of a traumatic mischaracterization,” Lauer said. “I think people listening at the time might feel it was embellishment at the time.”
Lauer also said Lochte told him authorities never questioned the validity of his statements when they reported the robbery.
Based on the contradictions in the video recordings, the police requested that legal authorities bar Lochte and Feigen from leaving Brazil. Lochte, however, had already left the country. Two other swimmers who were present during the alleged robbery, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were pulled off an airplane and detained by Brazilian law enforcement, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) confirmed Wednesday to BuzzFeed News.
An attorney for the swimmers confirmed they were released from custody, but said they will not be allowed to leave Brazil until they testify about the robbery, the Associated Press reported.
Read the full police statement below:
According to the Delegacia Especial de Apoio ao Turismo (DEAT), on this date, Aug. 17, in the investigation of the theft reported by swimmers from the American Olympic team, a warrant was issued by the Court for the Support of Fans and Major Events ordering a search and the seizure of the passports belonging to James Ernest Feign and Ryan Steven Lochte. This morning, the Civil Police appeared at the Athletes' Village to execute the order, however, the aforementioned athletes were not located. The Civil Police duly reported the measure to the Federal Police.
Investigations are currently underway. The Civil Police requested that the taxi driver who transported the athletes from the party at the Brazilian Equestrian Society to the Athletes' Village contact the DEAT or the Citizen Services Center (CCS) at the following telephone numbers: (21) 2334-8823, (21) 2334-8835.
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