Four Vikings charged with party boat misdemeanors
MINNEAPOLIS -- Quarterback Daunte Culpepper and three other Minnesota Vikings were charged Thursday with three misdemeanors each for taking part in a bawdy boat party earlier this season on Lake Minnetonka.
If convicted, each player faces up to a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine on each count.
Prosecutor Steve Tallen's decision was based on findings by the Hennepin County sheriff's office, whose investigators reviewed allegations of lewd and drunken behavior aboard a floating party Oct. 6 that involved some Vikings players.
Sheriff Pat McGowan said others might have been charged, but authorities weren't able to identify them sufficiently.
"The night of the incident, there was no shortage of inappropriate behavior on both boats," he said at a news conference.
Crew members complained that some people took off their clothes and engaged in public sex acts during the cruise, according to Stephen Doyle, an attorney representing the boat owners, Al & Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises in Mound. The crew members identified 17 Vikings among about 90 people on the two boats.
The court papers released Thursday said Smoot and defensive end Lance Johnstone arranged the charter.
Smoot declined comment in the team's locker room before practice. Both Culpepper and Williams are on injured reserve and in rehabilitation on their own, away from the team. McKinnie wasn't seen in the locker room.
Vikings coach Mike Tice was careful with his reaction.
"According to NFL rules and union contracts, there is a large difference between allegations and charges and convictions," Tice said just before his routine news conference. "So until at any point there is a conviction of some type, if there is, I have no action to take and nothing to say."
After that, Tice threatened to stop talking to reporters if anyone asked more questions about the allegations.
Reports that some women at the party were paid to come from out of state had raised the possibility of federal charges, but U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said Thursday that no such charges would be brought. Heffelfinger cited insufficient evidence.
That decision, along with sheriff's decision to send the case to Tallen's office, meant any charges would be minor. Tallen is the prosecuting attorney for the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, which handles nonfelony crimes committed on the big lake just west of Minneapolis.
The boat scandal hit the Vikings when they were already reeling, off to a 1-3 start, and made them the object of national ridicule on late-night TV and cable sports channels. New owner Zygi Wilf, who had been seeking state help for a new stadium, responded forcefully, apologizing to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other state officials and instituting a new code of conduct.
The team has since recovered on the field and, with quarterback Brad Johnson replacing the injured Culpepper, reeled off six straight wins to become a playoff contender at 8-5.
Running back Michael Bennett said he didn't think the charges would hurt the team heading into Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.
"Everybody's upbeat," he said. "We have the distraction today, but again we've dealt with it pretty well.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press