The news coverage of the Olympics revolved around two main stories. 

The first, the huge medal count for the U.S., which won more gold, silver, and bronze medals than any other country. The second — Ryan Lochte, who has managed to dilute the sense of heroism surrounding athletes.

His alleged lie about being robbed has led to questions of the swimmer’s fate.

 How will he be able to escape charges in Brazil, even with the support of a criminal defense attorney?

The Scandal

Up until recently, Lochte was famous for winning 12 Olympic medals. Now, his name is related to the greatest scandal of Rio 2016. Lochte filed that he, along with three other swimmers on the US team, suffered a robbery at the hands of armed men claiming to be Brazilian police during the early hours of August 14.

Lochte spoke of the incident during two television appearances, creating bad publicity for Rio by adding to already existing fears that it is a violent and dangerous city.  However, the story began to break down as evidence emerged, including a surveillance video and witness testimony.

What’s the real story?

It appeared that Lochte fabricated the story — he has since admitted to “over-exaggerating.”

It appears what actually happened is Lochte and the other swimmers arrived at the gas station drunk on the way back from a party and vandalized the bathroom. The four teammates broke a soap dispenser, door, mirror, and sign and urinated around restroom.

After leaving the gas station, security guards stopped the swimmers to hold them accountable for the damage.

A judge ordered all four athletes to stay in Brazil and surrender their passports, but Lochte had already left the country at the time of the order. Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger were released, has never lied about the incident. Jimmy Feigen, although he originally corroborated Lochte’s testimony, has since admitted to the lie and has been released with charges.

Ryan Lochte’s 5 Criminal Defense Options 

Why does this matter?

If Lochte refuses to return to Brazil, he will be tried in absentia and have no opportunity to defend himself. If he does decide to attend the trial and seek legal support, he has a few options for his criminal defense.

Affirmative Criminal Defense

Lochte’s first option is to prove he is telling the truth. This would mean going beyond simply showing the charges against him are false.  He and his criminal defense attorney would need to provide evidence showing Lochte really was robbed at gunpoint.

Impairment as a Defense

It has already been established that Lochte and his teammates were drunk when they vandalized the gas station restroom. Lochte and his criminal defense attorney could use this to claim that Lochte’s mental functioning was impaired and that he believed he was robbed at gunpoint.

Entrapment as a Defense

Lochte could alternatively claim that the Brazilian government tricked him into thinking he was being robbed at gunpoint. However, this would be very difficult to prove, especially since he has already stated that the security officers had a police badge.

The claim is also likely to sit badly with a Brazilian judge.

Leveraging Insanity as a Criminal Defense

Despite its frequency in fictional television shows and movies (such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), it is in fact, rare to rely on an insanity defense. It is improbable that any criminal defense attorney would recommend this option for Lochte.

To be successful, Lochte would need to provide medical evidence showing he suffered a mental defect and that this led him to believe he was being robbed. If the judge ruled he was not insane, he would likely be found guilty of the charge.

A Guilty Verdict

Bottom Line

For Brazilian authorities to find Lochte guilty, the prosecution needs to prove that he filed a false report of a robbery at gunpoint and that he knew this report to be false. Furthermore, the prosecution must show Lochte knew he was making the report to a police officer or another type of official.

If he is found guilty in the trial, he may be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison.

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Robert Malove
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South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
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